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Power shortage hinders Djibouti water supply

Electric power shortages is impeding the operations of the USD 339 million worth trans-boundary water project to pump potable water to neighboring Djibouti.

The cross-border potable water project, which was contracted to the Chinese firm CGC Overseas Construction (CGC-OC) Group Ltd., is currently being forced to spend more on diesel generators, as it was unable to get electric power. 

The Ethio-Djibouti Trans-boundary Water Project, which boasts about a 220-km transmission pipeline, crossing seven towns all the way from Adigala and Dewale to Djibouti City, is considered as one of the biggest water projects in Africa.

According to the information The Reporter has obtained from the Chinese company, even though a 44-km-long network of water collection pipes,  connecting 28 boreholes in the Ethiopian side was installed, the project is yet to operate at its full capacity mainly due to lack of electricity, which is required to pump the water.

Built after a bilateral agreement between the governments of Ethiopia and Djibouti was signed back in 2015; it aims to provide 100,000 cubic meter (m3) potable water daily, to Djibouti from Shinile Zone of Ethiopia’s Somali regional state for a period of 30 years.

The project is currently serving about 15-20 percent of the water demand of Djibouti’s capital as well as the entire water demands of Djibouti’s second largest City, Alisabih.

Completed in 2017, the project was financed by the Export-Import Bank of China (China Exim Bank), and executed by the Chinese construction giant CGC-OC Group.

An expert at the CGC-OC construction firm told The Reporter that the Ethiopia-Djibouti trans-boundary water project is also helping the local communities along the route with easy access to potable water. Company officials also announced that concerted efforts are underway to boost the Ethiopia-Djibouti trans-boundary water project’s current capacity.

The company further pointed out that, as part of the ongoing efforts, the project’s current potable water capacity of 20,000 m3 would be augmented by close to 50 percent.

Currently, the operating machineries of the project consumes up to 1,000-liter of diesel per hour, to operate the system and provide portable water for less than 20 percent of the initial target population of Djibouti.

The project, which is so far regarded as the largest independent deep-well water supply facility in Africa, was designed to serve for a minimum of 50 years. Once it starts operation at its full capacity, it is expected to supply water to Djiboutian cities, including the capital Djibouti, Dikhill, Alisabih, Arta, and Weah, the company said.

Attempts made by The Reporter to contact officials from Ethiopian Electric Power was futile.