Ethiopia’s Prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn has commissioned a new hydroelectric dam that aims to double the country’s electricity output. The Gilgel Gibe III hydroelectric dam which is the third largest dam in Africa and the biggest in a series built along the Omo River is 243 metres (800 feet) in height.
The dam that costed the East African nation 1.5 billion Euros and took almost a decade to construct has the capacity to produce 1,870 megawatts of power, enough to sell energy abroad including to neighbouring Kenya.
“This hydroelectricity plant, with other on-going projects, fulfils our domestic power needs and will be provided for foreign markets,” Desalegn said in a speech during the inauguration.
Despite the expected positivity that is meant to arise from the construction of the dam, environmentalists have warned that the dam will decrease water levels downstream all the way to Kenya’s Lake Turkana, which derives 80% of its resources from the river and thus highly affect hundreds of people who make their living in the Omo River valley and on Turkana.
The biggest opposition however, came from UNESCO, as they had previously condemned the project. On the other hand, the Human Rights Watch has also accused the Ethiopian Government of uprooting people from the Omo Valley to free up land for state-run sugar cane plantations. However, it is a claim that project boosters have denied.
In a country where there is no natural gas or oil reserve of its own, renewable energy is being used to help foster energy independence and economic growth.
This will not be the first time for Ethiopia to attract opposition on its dam projects. The construction of the Grand Renaissance dam on the River Nile poisoned Ethiopia’s relations with Egypt as is it totally reliant on the Nile for agriculture and drinking water, and fears the dam will hit its supplies.