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Ethiopia to build new dam on Nile tributary

June 16, 2021 at 12:13 pm

A general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on 26 December, 2019 [EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images]

Ethiopia has begun constructing a new dam on the Didessa River, a tributary of the Blue Nile, reported the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) yesterday.

ENA indicated that the construction of the dam, launched on Sunday in the city of Gida Ayana in the East Wollega, Oromia State, will develop the country’s irrigation infrastructure.

While announcing the Anger Irrigation Project, Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Seleshi Bekele, explained that only 20 per cent of 7.5 million hectares of available arable land has been developed using irrigation methods.

Bekele stressed that 50 per cent of arable farmland in Ethiopia is suitable for agricultural activities through irrigation.

The Ethiopian official indicated that the new dam will facilitate the reclamation of more than 14,500 hectares of land, benefiting about 58,000 farmers and their families.

He pointed out that the benefits of the new dam will be revealed upon its completion, announcing that the new water facility will be ready for operation in three years.

The structure is expected to be 1.3 kilometres long and 80 metres high, with a storage capacity of and 1.3 billion cubic metres. A budget of 10 billion Ethiopian birr ($229 million) has been allocated to the project.

READ: Egypt, Qatar meet ahead of crucial talks on Renaissance Dam crisis

Last month, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali said that his country intends to build more than 100 small and medium dams in various regional states within the next fiscal year. The move was rejected by Egypt, which considered the announcement proof of Ethiopia’s ill intent.

Ethiopia is in the process of filling its $5 billion Grand Ethiopia Rennaisance Dam (GERD) near the border with Sudan, which it says will provide the country with much-needed electricity and economic regeneration. Egypt believes it will restrict its access to Nile waters.

Egypt is almost entirely dependent on Nile water, receiving around 55.5 million cubic metres a year from the river, and believes that filling the dam will affect the water it needs for drinking, agriculture and electricity.

Cairo wants Ethiopia to guarantee Egypt will receive 40 billion cubic metres or more of water from the Nile. Ethiopian Irrigation Minister Bekele said Egypt has abandoned this demand, but Egypt insists it hasn’t and issued a statement to this effect.