Work on Ethiopia mega-dam proceeding 24/7

ADDIS ABABA – Construction work is proceeding around the clock on Ethiopia's multibillion-dollar Grand Renaissance Dam project in hopes of completing the mega-project on schedule, an Ethiopian official said Wednesday.

"We're proceeding as per the construction timeline," Simegnew Bekele, the project's chief engineer, told foreign reporters visiting the construction site.

"Around 32 percent of the dam construction is finalized... No financial or technical problems are encountered thus far," he said.

First begun in April 2011, the project is fast approaching its third anniversary.

When finalized in 2017, it will boast a 6000-megawatt production capacity, according to government sources.

Bekele insisted that his engineers had not made any compromises in terms of safety precautions.

"There are international guidelines, rules and standards, and we strictly adhere to them," he asserted.

"We have hands-on practice. We have experience… building and operating hydroelectric dams," said the project's chief engineer.

"Our contractors and consultants are world-class experts," he added. "By 2017, we will complete construction."

Bekele also reaffirmed that Nile water would be "managed" – not "consumed or diverted" – to another basin.

"It [the dam] benefits Egypt and Sudan by providing flood prevention, water use efficiency, energy uplift and reduction of sediment load," he asserted.

The dam project has caused tensions with Egypt, which fears the potential reduction of its own share of Nile water.

Addis Ababa, however, insists the project will benefit downstream states Sudan and Egypt, both of which can purchase the electricity that the dam will generate.

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