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Overflow of Gibe III threatens thousands downstream

Overflow of Gibe III threatens thousands downstream

Excessive level of water at Ethiopia’s giant hydropower dam, Gibe III, has prompted officials at Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) to commence a controlled release of the water as of the coming week.

The hydropower plant that entered in to its commissioning phase six months ago was unable to generate in full capacity owing to the low level of water caused partly by the EL Nino induced drought in the country. The aftereffects of the drought caused heavy rain falls in many parts of the country that consequently threatened overflow of the Gibe River on top of the dam.

Sources, however, blamed EEP and the project management for not implementing the transmission line ahead of the dam and the power plant construction. According to these sources, the transmission lines that connects the power plant with a new substation built in Sodo town of SNNPR has not been completed yet. Thus, it has been difficult to generate power at the installed capacity of the power plant. That means the water level at the dam will always increase because of the absence of water movement.

Authorities at EEP were not available to comment on the situation and on the possible social and environmental consequences of the artificial flood that could occurred by the controlled water release.

However, National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC) has notified its humanitarian partners to prepare to respond to possible disaster to communities residing downstream the controlled release of water from Gibe III dam, according to the OCHA’s weekly bulletin released on September 26.

The water from the Gibe III dam will be released for a week or two starting from September 29, according to the NDRMC alert dispatched to its humanitarian partners.

 The flooding will likely affect infrastructure and livelihood of people in Dasenech, Gnangatom, Hamer, and Selamago woredas of the Southern Nations Nationalities and People Regional State (SNNPR) where the dam is built.

The population within these four weredas of the lower Omo is estimated to be about 400,000, according to researches.

NDRMC is prepared to respond to the emergency and provide food, shelter, livestock feed, cooking utensils and plastic sheets based on the request from the regional disaster preparedness and prevention bureaus. The NDRMC has called for partners to support government’s endeavors to help low laying communities at-risk of being displaced due to the flooding.

The dam has a capacity of storing 11.8 billion cubic meters of water which will enable the power plant generate 1870 MW of eclectic power.

Apart from power generation, Gibe III dam is also planned to regulate water flows to end annual flooding in the southwestern South Omo region and provide a year round water supply for downstream irrigation projects.