Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project, Benishangul-Gumuz, Ethiopia
Ethiopia embarked upon the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam in April 2011. The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract, worth ETB80bn ($4.7bn), was awarded to Salini Costruttori.
The project is expected to be realised by July 2017. It is being funded by the government and the people of Ethiopia and will serve not only Ethiopia, but also Sudan and Egypt. The latter two countries depend on the Nile River for their water demands, however 85% of the river's water sources are from Ethiopia.
The dam is being constructed in the Benishangul-Gumuz region in Ethiopia, on the Blue Nile river which is located about 40km east of Sudan. The project is owned by Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO). It will create up to 12,000 jobs during the construction phase of the project.
The reservoir and the dam will offer major benefits to Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan. Egypt has for a long time held the major ownership of the water from the Nile River, disallowing Ethiopia from constructing a dam on the river. Egypt depends on the Nile for 90% of its water needs.
A tripartite committee was formed in January 2012 to promote understanding and look into the benefits and impacts the project would have on the three countries.
Need for the Ethiopian dam
Aimed primarily at generating power with an expected capacity of 6,000MW, the dam will also create a reservoir with a capacity of 63 billion cubic metres.
The dam will be capable of handling a flood of 19,370 cubic metres each second, will cut down alluvium in Sudan by 100 million cubic metres and also facilitate irrigation of about 500,000ha of new agricultural lands. It will also reduce about 40km of flooding in Sudan, upon its completion.
The regulated flow of water from the dam will improve agriculture. The impact from evaporation of water from the dam will be minimal compared to the other dams in Ethiopia, which will help in water conservation.
Water evaporation from Aswan High Dam, including other dams, in Ethiopia is about 19 billion cubic metres. Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will reduce the capacity of the Aswan High Dam, therefore saving about six billion cubic metres of water.
The dam will also serve as a bridge across the Blue Nile. The number of bridges on the river is minimal with few pedestrian bridges.
Background to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
Construction of the new Naga Hammadi barrage was completed in the spring of 2008.
The site of the dam was identified when the US Bureau of Reclamation first made a survey of the Blue Nile river from 1956 to 1964.
Two site surveys were also carried out in October 2009 and between July-August 2010, and the design was submitted in November 2010.
The Government of Ethiopia kept the design phase of the project secret until one month prior to the laying of the foundation stone for the project.
The planning phase of the project was carried out under a name called Project X, which was later changed to Millennium Dam and finally to the present name.
Construction of the dam across the Blue Nile
The dam will be a roller-compacted concrete (RCC) gravity-type comprising of two power stations, three spillways and a saddle dam.
The dam will be 150m in height and 1,800m in length. The reservoir with a capacity of 63 billion cubic metres will be formed in the middle section of the dam between the left and right banks.
Three spillways will regulate the water level in the reservoir. The saddle dam supporting the main dam will be five kilometres long and 50m high.
The two power stations will be located on either bank of the river.
As of June 2012, seven percent of construction work has been completed, with 13.4% of the construction work expected to be carried out by the end of 2012.
Financial backing for Ethiopia's project
The project is being financed by the Government of Ethiopia through the selling of bonds and donations, both within Ethiopia and internationally.
The project received funding of about ETB121m ($7.1m) from 53 real estate developers in August 2011.