Gosaye Feyissa: ENA
The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) was launched by late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on 2 April 2011 with the aim to eradicate poverty and ensuring mutual cooperation through the development of natural resources.
Six years back, when the cornerstone was laid for the construction of the dam, the late Premier in his speech said “more importantly the project takes the pride of place, representing an incomparable addition to our national plan for expanding power production”.
“It will not only raise our own power-generating capacity and meet our domestic needs; it will also allow us to export to neighboring countries and mobilize the resources for the realization of objectives for our rapid development endeavors”, Meles said.
The project will play a major and decisive role in realizing the nationwide efforts towards the eradication of poverty.
Taking the legacy of Meles, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn has been working hard for the realization of the dam by consolidating the mobilization of the public as well as promoting the benefit of the dam to the lower riparian countries.
In the efforts exerted to promote the lower riparian countries that the dam would not bring harm to them, effective results have gained.
Through the diplomatic efforts, including public diplomacy, of Ethiopia the three countries have reached consensus on the need for cooperation and pursue a win-win strategy.
In 2015, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed a declaration of principles in Khartoum in which the three countries agreed on the need for fair utilization of the waters of the Nile.
While engaging in the diplomatic activities to win the trust of the countries, locally Ethiopia has been working on the dam, in which its construction has now surpassed 57 percent, and maintains the public’s support.
Currently, progressive performance is seen on civil works, logistics, electromechanical and hydraulic steel structure works on the construction of the flagship project.
The participation of the public in support of the country’s flagship project, which brought unity and consensus among Ethiopians, has also consolidated.
The nation which has been consolidating fund raising activities and public mobilizations, celebrated the 6th year anniversary of the commencement of the project on the 2nd of April at Benishangul Gumuz regional state, Guba, located approximately 830 km North West of Addis Ababa.
This year’s celebration was unique as it incorporated several fund raising programs and occasions across the country and abroad.
Sport festival, street carnival, drama, women’s running race; mountain running treks in the premises of the dam and bicycle race were among the programs prepared to celebrate the day.
Speaking on the occasion of the celebration, President Mulatu Teshome said that the dam which creates national consensus among the public would not only benefit Ethiopia but also ensure benefits of riparian countries.
He expressed his belief that the construction of dam which has been executed based on the principle of fair and mutual benefit will develop economic integration among all riparian countries and serve as a source of peace.
Chairperson of the National Council for the Coordination of Public Participation on the Construction of GERD, Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen said since the launching of the construction of the dam six years ago, the participation of the public toward the construction of the dam was remarkable.
Demeke said construction of the dam has now reached a momentous phase and expressed his thanks to all Ethiopians for their relentless contribution in various means of support.
Community members, individuals and party leaders who were present on the occasion expressed their feelings in various ways.
“I monitor the construction of the dam every year, but now it has reached a very interesting phase and it is encouraging”, Ye Ethiopia Rae Party President, Teshale Sebero said.
“When it will be fully operational, the project would create a capacity to build another such huge mega projects”, he said.
The dam would also demonstrate the country’s capability to engage in any development activity, Teshale said.
Long distance runner and member of the executive committee of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, Gebregzaber Gebremariam on his part said that “previously there was fear of building such huge project. But, the current progress has proven that we can do anything and say ‘yes we can’”.
“As the dam will build our moral and capability and inquire our skill and knowledge, we all Ethiopians should strive day and night until the construction of the project become real”, he said.
Yacob Arsano, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the Addis Ababa University and senior researcher on the Nile spoke of the benefit that the dam would bring to riparian countries.
“Ethiopia’s outlook on trans-boundary Rivers is not monopolizing the use of such rivers rather it follows a strategy that ensures mutual benefit”, he said.
According to the researcher “If we cooperate on what we are developing, our cooperation and unity will further be strengthened among the countries”, he said.
The dam will play a crucial role in fostering cooperation and teaches a lesson about collective growth through the development of natural resources.
Upon completion, the dam would play a crucial role in integrating neighboring countries through power and meet local demands, Ethiopian Electric Power, Engineer Azeb Asnake said.
The dam can be taken as a concrete case for upstream-downstream cooperation for equitable and reasonable utilization of the shared water resources and as a means of sustainable benefit sharing among the Eastern Nile Basin Countries.
With total construction cost of 4.7 billion USD, the amount of money pledged by the people was 12.6 billion Birr, of which 9.6 billion Birr has been collected so far.
The dam, in which its construction exceeds 57 percent, will be the largest in Africa with an installed power generating capacity of 6450 MW.
Civil works of the dam, expected to be among the top 10 in the world, is being undertaken by the Italian firm Salini Impregilo, while the electro-mechanical works are being carried out by the Ethiopian Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC).
The construction of GERD which is in full speed has so far created job opportunities for 11 thousand Ethiopians and 350 expatriates drawn from 32 countries.