Ethiopia to build dam on Blue Nile near Sudan border

Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia
Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

March 14, 2011 (ADDIS ABABA) – Ethiopia is set to launch construction of a massive hydroelectric dam in its Nile basin near its border with Sudan, the country’s Prime Minister has announced.

The planned power plant Ethiopia’s Benishangul state will be 40km from the Sudanese border.

“We are planning to carry out a number of important projects, including a major project on the Nile,” Ethiopian Prime minister Meles Zenawi told the press.

Upon completion, the power plant will have an electric generation capacity of 6,000MW, three times more than the combined capacity of all Ethiopia’s existing dams.

Expected to take at least five years to complete, the dam is one of three the Horn of Africa nation plans to begin building before mid 2011. Three other power plants, which have been under construction in the past few years, are expected to become functional in 2011.

Last month Fortune, an Ethiopian newspaper, reported that construction on the dam on the Blue Nile has already begun. It also said that it was awarded to Italian multinational Salini Costruttori, the same Italian construction company that built the Gilgel Gibe II and Tana Beles dams.

Almost all Ethiopia’s dams lie either in the Nile River basin or on the Omo River. The Blue Nile, which begins in Ethiopia, meets the White Nile in Sudan’s capital Khartoum.

Both the Blue Nile and Omo River are shared with Ethiopia’s neighbors but do not have international water sharing agreements. However, Ethiopia does participate in the Nile Basin Initiative, a forum for dialogue with the other Nile basin countries.

Sudan and Egypt are the notable absentees from the initiative. Egypt claims that a colonial era agreement giving it the lion’s share of the Nile’s water is still valid.