On Saturday the government of Ethiopia launched the Gibe 3 hydroelectric dam, now the third biggest dam in Africa at 243 metres (800 feet) in height.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said at the opening ceremony of the Gibe 3 dam, that Ethiopia has the goal of producing 5,000 megawatts of electricity in the next five years through the dam.
According to Ethiopian officials, this dam makes the horn of Africa the biggest producers and consumers of renewable energy in Africa. The officials are optimistic about the dam’s capacity to meet Ethiopia’s electricity needs, as well as those of neighbouring countries.
Environmentalists are, however, skeptical about the implications of the downstream flow of the dam. The Omo river flows into Kenya’s Lake Turkana and has the possibility of decreasing water levels in the Omo river, even in Kenya’s Lake Turkana, which derives 80 percent of its resources from the river.
This could further affect the livelihoods of those who depend on the Omo river and Lake Turkana for their source of livelihood.
The dam cost $1.7 billion to build, with the Chinese government bearing most of the cost (60 percent) while the Ethiopian government bore 40 percent of the costs. The Chinese funds were, however, a loan which would be repaid by the Ethiopian government.
“This hydroelectricity plant, with other ongoing projects, fulfils our domestic power needs and will be provided for foreign markets,” Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said in the speech inaugurating the dam.
The abundance of rainfall in the horn of Africa is enough to supply the dam with the required amount of water to produce hydroelectricity.
The Ethiopian government is also building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a dam which is designated to become Africa’s biggest hydroelectric power plant.