Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ethiopia: Environmental Disaster of the Century

by Ewnetu Taye
Bahir Dar
A few weeks back nearly 200 staff members of the institution I work for paid a visit to the “Renaissance Dam.” That was my second trip to the resourceful Metekkel region (the first one was in 1985). This time, I was stunned by the huge untapped marble reserves and the breathtaking natural forest resources of the region. The beds and banks of all the rivers and streams we crossed are covered with marble rocks. The region is also known for its gold resources. The road from Gilgel Beles to the dam was made of crushed marble gravel. On both sides of the road, we saw hundreds and thousands of hectares of land covered with indigenous trees of natural forest.
Ethiopian dam and Environmental Disaster of the Century
We spent the night at the small town of Gilgel Beles before descending to the dam site which is located 40 kms from the Sudanese border. On the next day, we arrived at the dam site around lunch time. Soon after our arrival, the chief engineer of the project Ato Simegnew briefed us about the whole project. I have never thought before that the dam would cause such a huge environmental disaster. According to the chief engineer, the artificial lake behind the dam would cover 146 kms of forest land. The beautiful mountains you see in the photo below would become islands. The natural forest covering 146kms will be cleared off and the huge gold and marble reserves of the land will be buried under water.
Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam and Environmental Disaster of the Century
If exploited wisely, the gold and marble resources of the land (to be covered by the artificial lake) can generate billions of dollars that may in turn enable us to use a more environmental friendly solar and wind energy.
As every Ethiopian knows, at a time when the price of consumer goods has skyrocketed, the government has been forcing all civil servants and other sections of the population to pay a one month salary for the dam. Still worse, preparations are underway for a second round snatching of our salary for the project. The mourning of the late tyrant has shown to his loyalist successors that they can cow the population into absolute submission even without the deceased dictator. Now they can impose any decision on the helpless people.
They have been telling us that the total amount of money needed to complete the construction of the dam is about 80 billion Birr. Professionals can calculate the amount of solar or wind energy that same amount of money can generate.
Although the project could definitely bring about immeasurable environmental disaster, they are labeling those who raise their voices as enemies of the state.
God Bless Ethiopia.

1 comment:

  1. The issue regarding environment is always there, but needs to compromuise and minimise imapacts. Null impact is impossible, but i have doubt on issue raised beside forest (I am not sure how much hectare), the issue of Gold, who explore it? If somebody know it by eye, why not yet invest there you yourself? It will help in terms of energy gurante no question and dealing by own capacity is a must. So, what option u put there?