Prime minister Abiy on his social media post today, said that the corona pandemic ‘would not distract Ethiopians from the journey of being the owner of a dam.’ the prime minister added that the filling would start in the next rainy season.
Ethiopia kicked off the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) nine years ago in April 2011. The $5billion project brought hope for the country, with 70 percent of the population without access to electricity. Besides reaching the electricity needs of the country’s about 100 million people, the dam is part of the government’s goal of poverty reduction and becoming a middle-income country by 20. And the plan includes power generation and becoming the ‘powerhouse of Africa.’
The filling and operating of the dam became a hot issue among the three Nile basin countries Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia. The negotiation stuck when the US treasury department formulates terms which Ethiopia refused to sign, claiming it that it risks “its national interest.” The statement from the US Treasury Department warning Ethiopia not to start filling before the agreement is signed caused disappointment from the Ethiopian side.
Even though the countries seem distracted by the current COVID-19 pandemic, Ethiopia published its version of terms of the agreement that ‘fulfills its right and national interest while respecting the rights of the downstream.’
The coronavirus pandemic infected 29 people sofar in Ethiopia, and the government has been busy taking measures to tackle the spread. The prime minister assured that the government could not be distracted to focus on GERD amid COVID-19, “we give a prominent place for the GERD since it is the sign of our sovereignty and a rope that ties our unity.”
As it is completed, the GERD will become the largest dam in Africa. According to Dr. Engineer Seleshi Bekele, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, about 70 percent of the construction of the dam has been completed.