Hydropower uses moving water to generate electricity. In Ethiopia, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is currently being constructed. It is expected to reach a height of 145 metres high, which is nearly one-and-a-half times the height of Victoria Falls! There are some clear advantages to building the GERD, yet this large-scale project has certainly split opinions.
SOME FACTS ABOUT THE GERD
- The reservoir is set to contain 74 billion cubic metres of water. This is around 13x Ethiopia’s total annual water consumption.
- Ethiopia’s government expect the GERD to produce 6 Gigawatts (equal to 1 billion Watts, which is a unit of power) at peak output.
- It is expected to almost triple Ethiopia’s electricity production.
- Construction began in April 2011 and the final construction costs are a projected $6.4 billion US dollars.
IMPACT ON ENERGY
- The GERD could significantly reduce energy poverty among around 75% of Ethiopians who lack access to electricity.
- Deforestation may decline as there will be less need for fuels such as charcoal and wood.
- It will reduce Ethiopia’s carbon emissions.
IMPACT ON BIODIVERSITY
- As part of the project, a nature reserve is being created nearby the dam. This is designed to protect the area’s biodiversity.
- The dam could limit the impact of extreme events (such as droughts and floods) which may be beneficial to certain species and their habitats.
- The GERD is expected to develop local industry and provide jobs.
- Hydrologists in Egypt and Sudan fear that the dam could harm farmers by reducing the Nile’s water flow in the two countries.
- The reservoir may displace around 20,000 people.
IMPACT ON AGRICULTURE
- Ethiopian agriculture could benefit from irrigation schemes that may be regulated by the dam.
- The GERD could assist in preventing the annual flooding in Sudan. This flooding causes significant crop losses.
- The extra water removed from the Nile may result in Egypt becoming unable to sustain all its agriculture.
IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY
- The final construction costs are very expensive. The GERD is being entirely funded by the Ethiopian government (without international support).
- Exporting energy to neighbouring countries (such as Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan) may provide a large amount of revenue for Ethiopia.
IMPACT ON WATER FLOW
- The GERD is raising tensions between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan over the management of the Nile’s shared waters.
- There is fear that silt (fine material like sand or clay, the Nile is rich in this) may disrupt operations.
- The dam is expected to cut evaporation loss from basins downstream. It is believed that this will happen as a result of lowering the water level.