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A Look into the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Progress

By Meseret Mamo
Tigrai Onlne - January 24, 2014

The moment the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) construction on the Nile River was announced, it was a joyous occasion for many Ethiopians who have long been disappointed for their inability to use the river; and it also left great hope for our country’s nation, nationalities and peoples. And it’s not surprising to see citizens; who are confident enough of the capability of this huge (public) resource of achieving their hopes, giving it different (pet) name (if you will). Some call it the ‘flag project’ others ‘the gift of the century’ and so on. It’s would be easier to leave this issue simply by calling it ‘the one with many names’.

When we look at the project in hindsight, it’s easy to understand why the public has run out of names for it, considering it’s the culmination of all Ethiopians effort to break free from poverty and a project where they poured their labor and knowledge into without any hesitation. And also considering it’s a fervent project for the public.  

It would not be an exaggeration to claim the pride Ethiopians feels towards their flag is greater than everybody else, as this fact can be attested not only by friends of Ethiopians but by adversaries too. Be it at the Adwa Batter or yesterday’s War with the Eritrean Government; where every Ethiopian from border to border rallied up to defend their sovereignty, or when the flag is waved on numerous sporting event. All these attest to this truth. And I’m not forgetting our flag being used for the momentous occasion of the commencement of the ‘Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s project.

Be it those people who called the project ‘Ethiopian flag project’ or the ones who labeled it ‘the gift of the century’; all of them did this because they understood the projects’ expressiveness of their identity and also because it’s the representation of the footprint of all Ethiopians.

In any case, the project waving its bona-fide name ‘the Grand Ethiopian renaissance Dam’ has to date heralded our country’s renaissance and served as a fingerprint of our identity. And I wanted this occasion to walk you through (my dear readers) to the project’s current status. So, I will present my article by probing further into the project’s current status, while also looking its back-story.

As the saying “today is the product of yesterday” entails, the first thing that pop to our heads when we speak of the GERD is our Visionary Leader’s Meles Zenawi; who was the initiator of the Project, “we (the peoples of Ethiopia) are the owners (the source of finance), we are the engineers, we are the builders…..” speech. The reaction of all Ethiopian nation, nationalities and peoples that was seen following the commencement of the project on March 24, 2004 was also memorable.

The way every Ethiopian of all race, creed, gender and ages rally to the streets colored with the flag without any lobby or persuasion (influence) from anyone, in which it reaffirmed the fact that it really is the owner, the engineer, and the builders of the project was also unforgettable. With this gesture the public has done something the history books won’t forget, it demonstrated a ‘yes we can’ attitude with regards to the realization of the ‘Grand Ethiopian renaissance Dam’ project.

As its known the construction of this dam is filled with many events. The fact that its created a ‘yes we can’ attitude by dismissing the ‘it can’t be done’ mentality that shackled our people for years with regards to using the Nile; and the fact that it’s a project where every Ethiopian in every corner of the globe have promised to contribute his/her own share (making it the only project in the world built solely by its people’s money (ownership)), can be described as some of the events that occurred in relation to the project.              

We are now nearing the second year, since the cornerstone for the project was laid. And from the very first day of the construction, the work is being done with the desired pace and manner. This project which is expected to generate 6000 MW Electric power is being built in an area between 20 and 40 km from where the Nile River leaves the borders of Ethiopia.

The project which is being undertaken by the very experienced ‘Salini Construction Company’, the electro and hydro mechanical work is being undertaken by Metal and Engineering Corporation (METEC), while the consulting work is carried out by a joint Italo-French Engineers company. This has helped the ‘Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’ construction project to be of International standard and have a durable guarantee.

According to the experts, a construction project is done step-by-step by incorporating different phases. Site testing, design (of the dam), site preparation, Dam construction are some of the main phases. And the ‘GERD’ Construction project finishing these phases appropriately, has now transferred into the main construction work.

With regards to this, there have been very successful works undertaken once the construction project has started its second phase, after finishing the first phase which is the design part. Out of these successful works, the one includes the diversion of the River‘s natural course. The fact that the diversion of the river’s course; which plays the major role in undertaking the construction in the desired (planned) pace, was done successfully goes out to show (confirm) the success of this construction project.

The diversion of the river’s course which enabled the people to celebrate the one year anniversary of the construction with great national pride and joy; not only heralded the start of the major construction phase of the project, but it also reaffirmed that the anti poverty struggle  is going in the right direction.

Here, it will be helpful to talk about the construction of the ‘Hoover Dam’, which is built on Colorado River. This dam which was one of the dams built during the hardship days of what Americans call as ‘depression era’.

At the time, symbolizing this dam construction as base for reigniting their development, it had helped them initiate huge motivation from their people. The project had also created a huge chunk of employment opportunities. About 500 thousand people have found job by the dam’s concrete work only. And according to information about the project, it has taken more than one year to divert the natural course of the River Colorado.

What we can notice from this is the fact that despite the many similarities the ‘Hoover Dam’ construction shares with the ‘GERD’ construction, there are few striking differences. With regards to this, the short time it took to divert the rivers’ course in relation to the size of the river has helped it to enable to construct the dam in a very swift manner, signifying it success (of course with regards to its tempo).

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Construction which carries the hopes of the Ethiopian nation, nationalities and people and which also healed years of disappointment is now entering a huge transformation by the strategic work done following the diversion of the River’s (natural) course. With this the construction phase has reached 30% completion.

In relation to this, it’s not hard to see through the propaganda of “the talk of the project reaching 30% is only for political expediency” spewed by some ‘Mubarak-possessed’ Egyptians politicians and authorities, as it clearly contradicts to the realities on the ground.

All in all, as the project work is done along with various other works, its demands for various construction equipment and inputs has been met. Nowadays, there are more than 1600 heavy machineries in place in order to hasten the construction. The GERD project is being built 24 hrs without interruption, with more than 6 thousand 600 workers who are doing their job with huge national emotion and responsibility. And this has enabled the construction project to move with the desired (planned) pace, not facing problems with regards to equipment and inputs. 

Currently at this time, the excavation for the main Dam is being carried out. In addition to this, the works for filling the higher grounds with ‘Roller compacted concrete’ is being done, and it’s progressing very well. And the other part of the construction is done on what is known as ‘Saddle Dam’, a 5 km long and 50 m meters auxilary dam constructed to confine the reservoir, and its currently being carried out.

At the same time the home-based Metal and Engineering Corporation (METEC) has started its erection of diversion Calvert. The other work of the construction is the building of the electric generators. The GERD (will) have two power generators. The generators are situated on the dam’s right and left bank; both will have sixteen units.

The power generator on the right has ten units and the one on the left bank of the dam have 6 units. And every unit will have the capability to generate 35 MW each. And according to recent information, while the excavation work is being carried out, the erection of the metals superstructure will start soon.

The other work being undertaken under the ‘GERD’ project is the building of power distribution plant. When it’s completed, it will be the largest of its kind in the whole country. This 500 KV distributor is not only our country’s first big voltage-carrier but it will also have a big role in eradicating power shortages. And this will facilitate the development of our country’s power distribution capability.

The project other structure is called ‘spillway’. There are three parts works being done under this structure. The first is the ‘controlled spillway’ with its own opening and closing gates. And according to the information gathered from the site, the second phase of the work is about to start as the first phase is completed. The second work relates to the uncontrolled spillway (which does not have a door). And its erection is being carried-out. This phase objective is to help release water when it rises above the dam. Its first phase has now been completed.

The other thing is the structure work done on the ‘emergency spill-way’; the construction work has started after the completion of the research and its design. Thus, mentioning the works that are being done is enough to suggest that the project is going on the planned manner and pace.

The GERD construction work especially after the successful diversion of the river’s natural course, have a shown a huge development as a consequence of the full-frontal effort that has been exhibited on the project. ‘Salini construction’; in charge of the civil work of the construction, has enough machineries to carry out its proposed work of excavation, concrete filling and other related civil works. It is carrying out the construction work as planned, helped by two plants that can Mince up to two thousand ton gravel and produce 400 meter cube an hour.

The home-based Metal and Engineering Cooperation (METEC) on its part is recording positive results. By doing the designing and all the relevant works on the Electromechanical and hydraulic steel structure very well, the corporation is achieving positive results. And this has created a big opportunity in strengthening the country’s capability by creating self-sufficiency on related construction works.

The ‘GERD’ construction has reached its current status passing through different events: From seeing countries that showed their support for the project (weighing it from the perspective of a mutual benefit), to seeing equitable water utilization gaining attention more than ever.

On the contrary, we have seen from opposing the project to plotting to disrupt (destroy) it. However, as both the public and the government gave it their utmost attention, the construction project is going as planned without any disruption for a moment. So, we can safely mention the motivation that has been ignited on the public and the government’s strong commitment towards its anti-poverty campaign as the main culprits that are responsible for the projects up to date successful run.

This project which is the primary national agenda hasn’t been shy from close supervision. The GERD which is considered as a paramount project by all Ethiopian nation, nationalities and people, it is toured daily by many people. And as this is a huge moral boost for the Ethiopians and foreign citizens directly involved in the project, it’s playing its own huge role in the project’s successful progression.

The project has also showered many other benefits. Especially on job creation front: as only 550 are foreigners out of the project’s more than 6600 work force, it has been able to make more than 6000 Ethiopians get a job. I don’t think it’s hard to see the national and personal benefit of the project, as a way of generating an income and a way of gaining knowledge (for individual citizens).

It also creates and implicates tomorrow’s bright future. Especially as the world’s demand for eco-friendly power generating schemes like hydro power generating projects is (and will be) on the  rise, the benefit is (and will be) huge as there will be a huge potential to be beneficiary from the sector.

On another note, creating a work force that can satisfy the very fast growing. Infrastructure Construction demand of our country can have a huge benefit for the country. In addition to this, as it can satisfy the country’s incredibly growing investment demand of man power, It can’t be argued the huge assurances this gives for the country’s development sustainability.

The dam’s project benefit doesn’t stop with this. It will take our economical ties with neighboring countries to the next level. And its contribution on mutual development and creating a long-lasting peace among neighboring countries is huge. Thus, it will play huge role in shrugging–off our poverty that has been ‘a monkey on our back’ and hastening the anti poverty struggle. Of course, it isn’t hard to guess the huge amount of pride and joy it bestows up on anyone who had the chance to see the committed and enduring way the construction project is moving forward.

The whole Ethiopian peoples’ reaction it showed towards the project from the days of its commencement has been the driving engine that has played for the success of the GERD project. The whole Ethiopian nation, nationalities and people motivation that was exhibited since the days of the commencement is still high, as the promise ‘we will end it, as we started it’ was made by the public after the unfortunate passing of our great leader; who had a huge role in the project.

By turning our great leader’s speech, “we (the peoples of Ethiopia) are the owners (the source of finance), we are the engineers, we are the builders…..” into reality, the fact that the project is going as planned is a testament to our commitment to win the anti-poverty struggle.

It’s important here to note that the main reason that’s driving the whole Ethiopian people to exert its committed and enduring effort for the success of the dam construction is the new generation’s maturity to see the benefit of the project and its fruitful contribution to the future of Ethiopia. Thus, seeing as how the project will move forward with the same force that launched it, it’s beyond doubt that its finish will be as successful (fruitful) as its start.

Though it’s impossible to find a person who wouldn’t want to see the fruits of its labor, we still have to work together on the project more than ever to keep the word “we (the peoples of Ethiopia) are the owners (the source of finance), we are the engineers, we are the builders…..” and also to keep our promise ‘we will finish it as we started it’.

We especially have to shrug 0ff the confusing (distracting) rumors that are spewed by some local and foreign forces that don’t our success and development, and toil on this construction project. We have to always keep in mind the ethos of ‘keep on walking’; yes, we have to ‘keep working’.

This video is from a year and half ago, so the construction of the Dam is beyond what we see on this video.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will look like this when completed
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is under construction on the Blue Nile River in the Benishangul-Gumuz Regional state of Ethiopia. The dam will generate 6,000 MW of electricity when completed.

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