The Great Ethiopian Renascence Dam (GERD) is one of the indicators of Ethiopians resolute stance and that of the government to achieve economic development and to eradicate poverty. According to the information given by pertinent authorities, the construction of the dam is now 54 per cent through. The tempo will be maintained. The 6000 megawatt hydroelectric power that is going to be generated from the dam does not only ease energy shortage but also enhances the nation’s foreign currency reserve through supplying power to neighbouring countries. In line with this, GERD plays crucial role in bringing regional political harmony. The construction of the dam, in a relatively elevated place, which is 500 meter above sea level at the turbine site, minimizes the amount of evaporation. As a result, the downstream countries will be beneficial. The dam has also numerous values. When it sees completion, the lower riparian countries will no longer be the victims of food or water scarcity as they will get regulated water yearly. Silt accumulation in their dams will cease to be a threat. The unfolding has changed the previous regional zero-sum- game politics into a win-win one.
Currently, Ethiopia pursues a Climate Resilient Green Economy which necessitates the development of clean energy and the GERD in this regard can be said a showcase. According to the officials, the nation spends significant amount of hard currency for the importation of carbon intensive petrol and petroleum products. Such importations, in addition to eating our badly needed currency, inflicts hazards on the environment, which is contrary to the CRGE objectives. Hence the development of clean and renewable energy through time will reduce the nation’s dependency on imported fossil fuels. As a result, the hard currency that is going to be spent for the importation will be saved. The expansion of rural electrification and utilization of clean energy for the household purpose also help the protection of vegetation covers and forests. The smoke related health risk also gets reduced. The situation also allow proper land management. Forests and plants can contain soil erosion, retain rain water and replenish underground water which becomes sources of rivers and ponds. All these indicate the significance of conservation in rivers basin which are feeder of the Nile. The river has to be flanked by trees of the afforestation move. Because in addition to reviving the water sources, it helps to minimize the amount of silt which might enter into the dam. Such conservation work will prolong the life span of the dam. The dam has also various economic values. The 245km long, 45km width and 110 meter depth artificial lake to be formed could make the nation rich in fish and marine life. This way the dam supports the struggle for attaining food security and creating job opportunities for thousands. Furthermore, it could advance marine transport and people and goods could be easily transported from place to place. Both the off and on shore areas could serve as recreational and tourist destination. Here again in addition to creating job for thousands, it triggers the flourishing of hotel industries. In line with this, travel agents could enjoy market opportunities and ultimately the nation’s foreign currency earning capacity will rise.
The Second Growth and Transformation Plan capitalizes the expansion of manufacturing sector to lay the ground for industry-led economy. The sector is also expected to play critical role in job creation, import substitution and value chaining and to create self-sustaining and innovative based development. But these all could never be realized without reliable and cost effective energy supply. By now, according to the Ministry of Water, Electricity and Irrigation, the nation annual energy demand has risen by 20 per cent and the ongoing rapid economic growth further increases the demand. Hence, to balance demand and supply GERD and other under construction dams plays positive role. The mega project which mobilizes public could raise national pride and show how the collaboration between the people and the government can positively impact the nation’s image. The construction of dam, 100 per cent undertaken by local finance resource and the role of the people in purchasing the bond, once again builds self-confidence and such collaboration should be stepped up.
More than ever the public, as the owner of the dam, should diligently watch and protect it. Although Ethiopia strives to eradicate poverty for good, anti-peace and anti-development elements or detractors never sleep when it comes to putting logjams to slacken the nation’s push towards economic advancement. Thus Ethiopians must keep open eyes to foil the desperate conspiracy to derail the actualization of the dam.
This article was originally published in The Ethiopian Herald on 25 October 2016 under the Editorial Viewpoint section.