The Novel Corona Virus dubbed COVID-19 by the World Health Organization, caused a delay in the delivery of some equipment shipped for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), it was disclosed.
Speaking of the current status of the construction of the GERD as well as the ongoing negotiation regarding the filling and operation of the largest hydroelectric dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile river, Seleshi Bekele (PhD), Minister of Water and Energy, said that the construction of the dam is progressing well and previous problems relating to project management have been resolved, resulting in the quickened construction of the dam. He also added that 71 percent of the construction is completed.
But there are new and emerging challenges to the construction causing a bit if a delay in the course of the construction, Seleshi revealed.
“For instance, related to the Coronavirus outbreak, materials that are being imported have faced delays for two weeks to a month,” he said, adding, “This is a challenge that shook the global economy and we will treat it accordingly.”
The COVID-19, affected more than 98,000 people and caused more than 3300 deaths globally, according to the WHO. Trade across the globe has been affected because of the virus and stock markets suffered the most since the 2008 financial crisis that rocked the globe.
While most African countries including Ethiopia did not report any case of the virus, Egypt became the first country on the continent to report COVID-19 cases followed by Algeria, Senegal, and Nigeria, Tunisia. Egypt remains a high-risk country of contracting and spreading of the virus. The risk assessment also places Ethiopia among countries with moderate risks.
Nonetheless, the efforts to accelerate the construction of the dam have been given due attention and the follow up is strong, he supplemented. Workers are also toiling day and night.
“Last week I met with all the contractors to assess their progress and find ways of resolving the challenges they face. There is a strong follow-up; the Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) has dedicated full force for contract management and financial management. The board of the EEP also does full follow up. It is at the center of the government’s attention whereby the Prime Minister himself conducts a day to day follow up for the dams accelerated completion,” Seleshi explained.
Accordingly, the filling of the dam will begin come next rainy season in June, he disclosed, indicating that the dam would hold 4.9 billion cubic meters of water, which he said is a small amount of water.
“At that stage of the construction, we can’t hold more water as the 11 turbines at the upper section of the dam need to be completed to do so. Unless we are cautious and wait for these turbines to be installed and fill beyond that point, it poses a risk as water might spill into the power-house,” he added.
Consequently, the dam would begin testing and commissioning in the dry seasons of February- March 2021 followed by power generation.
“The best part of our dam is that we don’t have to wait for seven years until the dam holds water to the fullest of its capacity [74 cubic meters] to generate power. W can generate power at the lower stages of the filling,” he said.