Ethiopia is planning a huge hydro-electric dam which will collect the waters of the Blue Nile, but the project is causing concern for neighbouring countries Egypt and Sudan.
The Grand Renaissance Dam project is building the biggest hydro-electric dam in Africa, according to CNN. The dam will be situated in the highlands, close to the country's border with Sudan. The dam is being built by an Italian construction company whose spokesman is quoted by CNN as saying:
"It's not very easy to build a project of this magnitude in a remote area. The effort of this country is really, really impressive. They will produce clean energy using natural resources".
It will be six years before the dam is completed but already countries down stream are worried that their water supply will be affected and do not appear to be convinced by Ethiopia's reassurances.
ESI-Africa says that Ethiopia is investing millions to improve the supply of electricity in the country with around half the country having access to electric power. The Grand Renaissance Dam will produce six thousand megawatts of power and the country has other projects on the go which include a smaller hydro-electric dam and wind farms which will be help to not only provide power for Ethiopia but also to export power to neighbouring countries. Djibouti is already benefiting and deals have been signed with Kenya and South Sudan.
International Rivers, a non-governmental organisation, reports that the dam will flood 1,680 square kilometres of forest and will hold around 67 billion cubic metres of water. The building of the dam is becoming a political hot potato as, traditionally, Egypt has held most of the rights to the waters of the Blue Nile despite the fact that it's source is in Ethiopia. It is suggested by International Rivers on their website that the timing of the launch of the project, during the 'Arab Spring' uprising in Egypt in 2011 was a deliberate ploy.
Ethiopia plans to fund the project itself, despite the huge cost, and has launched an official website and Facebook page to encourage people to buy bonds to help finance the project with a particular focus at the Ethiopian people themselves. The turbines and other electrical equipment are allegedly to be financed by China.
The cost of the project is huge but if they manage to pull it off, Ethiopia will have access to a major source of power. The countries downstream, in particular Egypt could suffer a significant loss of water flow, especially as the dam fills. An environmental impact study is underway with an International Panel of Experts paying a visit to the site in the middle of May, according to the dam's official website.