On the 2nd of April 2011, Ethiopia commenced with the construction of the yet to be largest hydroelectric dam in the African continent – The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), also known as the Millennium Dam. The dam which is being built on the Blue Nile River, just upstream of the Ethiopian-Sudanese borders in Ethiopia is anticipated to produce 6000 MW of energy. Ethiopia is the source of the Blue Nile which provides 85% of the total Nile river water flowing through Egypt and Sudan.
Generation of electric power from clean and renewable energy for Ethiopia and other African countries is what Ethiopia officially aims to achieve by constructing the GERD. According to the Ethiopian leaders, the GERD will lead to a new era of equitable utilization of the river Nile and shall be used as a tool for the socioeconomic development of the country. However this rather controversial project has raised many concerns and fears with the downstream countries, with Egypt in particular, fearing that the GERD may lead to catastrophic impacts on its water security. Other than recent diplomatic interventions between Ethiopia and downstream countries of Sudan and Egypt there is virtually no agreement to date between the parties, this which makes the situation rather potentially volatile.
The aim of this paper is to assess and criticize Ethiopia’s decision to build the dam from an environmental perspective and identify how the decision was made and what were the set criteria for the project. The assessment will inevitably also consider the economic and social aspects within Ethiopia as well as other neighboring countries being affected.
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Image credits: Reuters