The participation of the Ethiopian people to the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
has continued the same as five years ago and it is 60 percent done now
Ethiopian Public participation to realize GERD at its peak
By Gemechu Tussa
Tigrai Online, August 8, 2017
The participation of the Ethiopian people to the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has continued with the same pace to the previous five years. According to Office of National Council for the Coordination of Public Participation on the Construction of GERD, from various participations of the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples the office has collected over 1.2 billon birr for the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the just-ended Ethiopian fiscal year.
It was disclosed that some 1.1 billion birr was collected from domestic bond sales and donation. The people are still eager to complete the construction of the dam.
Ethiopians living abroad have also a significant contribution. In the just ended Ethiopian fiscal year, the Ethiopian Diaspora has contributed about 129 million birr. Since the launching of the project in 2012, over 4.7 billion birr was raised by public servants and private employees and the Diasporas contributed more than 783 million birr.
Public servants and the public have rendered immense contributions towards raising fund for the construction of the dam but more funds could have been raised by carrying out agitations based on the interest of the public.
It is learnt that more than 58 percent of the construction of the dam is already completed. Some 28,000 persons from all walks of life, including the Diaspora, ambassadors, students and members of the armed forces have visited the project site of the dam.
Ethiopia’s economic development in the recent years is undeniable. Despite the enormous challenges facing the country in all aspects of life, the people and government of Ethiopia are facing the challenges and moving forward.
The government had to come up with a plan to expand the energy sources and supply by extensively investing in energy sources which are comparatively advantageous. The one potential energy resources the country is abundantly endowed with is hydro-power.
According to available documents Ethiopia has 12 river basins with an annual runoff water volume of 122 billion m3. It is believed that the country has a total volume of 109 billion cubic meters of surface and about 2.6 billion cubic meters of ground water. However, only about 3 per cent of these water resources are used so far and only 2 per cent of the population has access to electricity in the rural areas.
One of the major mega plans that the government come up with to better this situation was to construct the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Consequently, once its construction began, the dam has attracted the attention of the Ethiopian public as well as downstream countries of the Nile basin.
Construction work at the GERD goes 24 hours 360 days a year.
One of the major rationales behind the construction of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam is economical. Along with other development projects, the GERD is believed to play significant role in realizing food self sufficiency. The GERD could also have both historical and political rationales.
Another constraint was lack of appropriate policies and strategies. There were no visionary and politically committed leaders in the country that could mobilize the people to raise the country's economic capacity to accomplish such huge projects. Neither could they manage to win the diplomatic games so as to get foreign aid and funds for mega projects.
There was also a strong imposition of influence from the downstream countries particularly Egypt to block the initiative to undertake mega water development and hydro-power projects on the Nile. It has been persistently winning the minds and hearts of donor countries not to fund any Ethiopian projects along the Nile Waters and blocked all possibilities of getting financial aid or loans.
The country and the situation have now changed absolutely. This is amazing for many of us. The overall fast economic and human developments in the country have built up strong capacity to carry out certain projects with local financial mobilization. As a result, age long belief about the impossibility of building any developmental project along the Nile River without receiving foreign aid has become history.
The construction of GERD is fully funded by the people and government of Ethiopia. There is no doubt that the participation of all Ethiopians at home and abroad would continue until the completion of the project. Currently, more than 60 per cent of its construction has been completed.
At the beginning of its construction, there were lots of misunderstandings not only among the downstream countries but also among all Nile Basin Nations and the international community. Particularly, Egypt raised serious objection to the project arguing that the amount of water flowing to downstream countries would be reduced. Other countries also shared this concern at the beginning. However, that notion was altered later as a result of Ethiopia's strong diplomacy and negotiation.
Egypt has still some reservations. Few Egyptian media and officials have continued to propagate that the construction of GERD could inflict harm on the downstream countries. They failed to accept the reality despite all the tangible evidences that Ethiopia has been providing them with.
One of the downstream countries, the Sudan, has comprehended the affirmative regional impact of the Dam. So did other Nile Basin countries and the international community. They have developed hopes on the significance of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam for regional economic integration.
Despite what some of the Egyptian media and officials release every time, the genuine political commitment of the three countries will certainly bring consensus that could benefit the three sisterly countries: the Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia.
The government of Ethiopia, from the very beginning, has been expressing its belief that the GERD will never inflict any harm on downstream countries. It has exerted a lot of efforts to bring these countries to a round table for negotiation.
Following the pragmatic diplomacy of Ethiopia, Sudan has already comprehended the benefit of the Dam. Consecutive consultations compelled the three countries to sign the tripartite agreement in which the lower riparian countries have acknowledged the rights of Ethiopia to develop any project along its natural resource; the Blue Nile.
Moreover, the efforts to improve mutual understanding and better diplomatic relations bare fruits that there is at least common understanding to stick to a win-win approach regarding the utilization of the Nile water.
However, in contrast to the already established diplomatic relations and mutual understanding to improve the lives of the entire people in the three countries, there are some officials from Egypt who have been separately and frequently dispatched false and negative messages concerning the impact of EGRD on downstream countries. These officials are rigid on the implementation of the colonial treaty signed between the two downstream countries: Egypt and the Sudan under the auspice of Great Britain in 1959.
That treaty left little opportunity to Ethiopia to develop any projects on its own resource. It rather let Egypt, with no contribution to the Nile Waters, use 55.5 billion meter cube of the water and Sudan to use 18.5 per cent.
On the other hand, Ethiopia, which contributes more than 85 per cent of the Nile Waters, only wants fair and equitable water utilization in the basin. From the very beginning, Ethiopia made it clear that it needs to cooperate with the Nile Basin countries in general and the Sudan and Egypt in particular for any developmental activities along the Nile River.
The country needs its fair share of water to utilize it to alleviating poverty and ensuring sustainable economic development. Its determination to build GERD has emanated from this very notion. The Sudanese government has soon recognized the insignificant impact of the GERD and its economic importance not only for Ethiopia but also for other countries in the region. Then, it has been cooperating with Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has been exerting various efforts to build confidence and trust among the three countries; thereby, strengthening cooperation among them. It has been allowing Ministers, Parliamentarians, Diplomats, Public Diplomacy Members and Media Practitioners of Nile Basin Countries to visit the Dam.
Ethiopia has still devoted for mutual benefit to all people along the Nile Basin. It believes the GERD is a golden opportunity for the entire people along the basin. As Ethiopia uses the Nile Water only for generating hydroelectric power, Egypt and Sudan have still the opportunity to receive uninterrupted water supply throughout the year. The Dam could also minimize evaporation because it is situated in deep gorge, which is a good opportunity to Egypt and the Sudan. Now, there is regional hope on the GERD. The Sudan is the first to realize it. All countries along the Horn of Africa have also comprehended the economic benefit of this huge Ethiopian project. These countries along with the other Nile Basin countries developed hope and they have expressed their support to its construction.