PhD students on excursion to the Blue Nile hydro-electric dam construction in Ethiopia

December 21, 2012.  

ZEF has been cooperating with the University of Addis Ababa since 2010 to develop and implement the first PhD program on environmental planning in Ethiopia. The interdisciplinary and applied program is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Currently, 21 PhD students are enrolled. In November 2012, the program organized a scientific excursion to the Blue Nile Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam - currently the largest hydro-electric dam construction project in Africa.


The Grand Renaissance Dam is currently being constructed in the lower basin of the Blue Nile in the Benishangul-Gumuz regional state in western Ethiopia, 15 kilometers from the Ethiopian-Sudanese border. About 4,500 people, of whom about 150 are non-Ethiopians, currently work on the construction site, where work is ongoing for 24 hrs a day.


After completion, the dam will be 1,780 meters long and 154 meters high. It will flood a 246 kilometers long canyon at the Blue Nile and create an artificial lake of 1,680 km². As part of the project a 200 meters new bridge over the Blue Nile has already been constructed. A concrete lined gated spillway and a 5.2 kilometers long, 50 meters high stone-made saddle dam located some 5 kilometers to the south of the main dam will complete the project’s layout.


The Blue Nile Grand Renaissance Dam is expected to generate 6,000 megawatt power. This is equivalent to the power generation capacity of six middle size nuclear power reactors and more than three times of the current actual power generating capacity of Ethiopia. The project is envisaged to set an important cornerstone for the future economic growth of Ethiopia, a country of more than 90 million people and GDP growth rates of 8-10 percent annually.


Dr. Till Stellmacher