22 September 2012

Ethiopia: A Glimpse At the Effort to Tap Water and Energy Potential

Fostering development of water and energy resources is one of the main goals set in Ethiopia's growth and transformation plan (GTP). Of course, it is vital to generate enough amount of energy that can fill the growing demand from various booming development projects.

The set goal for the sector aspires to hugely fend of the dependency of the country's agriculture on rain water and further expand potable water to areas that are still waiting for this infrastructure. Already, two years have passed from the scheduled period for the GTP. With in these couple of years, the Ministry of Water and Energy has been undertaking various activities to attain the goals set for the sector.

The Ministry of Water and Energy, in collaboration with various governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, has been working on different projects on water in different parts of the country. Research conducted in the sector shows Ethiopia has 122.8 billion cubic meter and 36 billion cubic meter of water in its 12 basins and underground respectively. The ministry aspires to use this huge untapped potential for provision of potable water and development of irrigation schemes.

State minister with the Ministry of Water and Energy, Kebede Gerba, says in accordance with the GTP, the ministry has been persevering the goal to ensure full access to potable water at the end of the planned period. According to him, the plan is set to make the proximity of potable water at half a kilometer distance in urban and one and half kilometer distance in rural areas of the country per head. With in the GTP period 35 million people areexpected to get access to clean potable water.

This requires to construct infrastructure to enable new seven million people get water access every GTP year. However, the ministry has so far managed to provide access only for 5.3 million people on the first year and for 6.8 million people on the second year. The ministry relatively better performed last year that it achieved 95 percent of its goal.

The state minister also says, in addition to constructing new water fountains, repairing that are not providing proper service is part of the plan. Twenty percent of water supply facilities were not providing service on the first year of the GTP. According to the plan, the ministry has the goal to repair 10 per cent of these sites with in the stated period. About five thousand of them have been repaired to newly provide service with in the last couple of years, Kebede stated.

Moreover, the country is said to have about 5.3 million hectares of potentially irrigable land, and using this potential is the other focus of the GTP. Before the GTP, only 5 per cent of this potential was tapped and the ministry has plans to increase this number to 15.4 by the end of the GTP period. This would maximize the existing 107.24 hectare irrigated land to 750 hectares during the scheduled period. Side by side, construction of irrigation dams is underway in various water basins of the country.

With in the last couple of years, it has been planned to irrigate 100 thousand hectares of land each year. However, about 32 thousand hectares and 42 thousand hectares of land irrigated via dams in 2003 and 2004 respectively, which is 40 per cent of the plan. From the 750 hectares of land scheduled to irrigated during the GTP years, the ministry of Water and Energy has 30 per cent share while the states (40 per cent) and private stakeholders (30 per cent) are expected to perform the rest. The performance of states in the sector showed weak achievements and that has its own effect on the overall performance, the state minister noted. However, the regions now have their own allocated budget for the dams and are relatively performing faster, he added. The state minister is optimistic that the goal in this respect could be achieved with in the scheduled period as more and more private investors are engaging in the sector as compared to the previous year.

According to Kebede, in addition to extended engagement on water and energy infrastructure, the ministry has been doing its level best to capacitate and better prepare the human resource needed for the sector. For this to happen, in collaboration with the universities, it has prepared a curriculum that could enable well qualified professionals for the sector. The ministry also has a plan to establish its own educational institution and provide trainings fit to international standard in water and energy sector. The private sector is facing acute shortage of the necessary machines. To overcome this challenge the ministry is working in collaboration with other stakeholders and assemble some of them with the possible local capacity.

Similarly, to meet the goal for the energy sector, several projects are underway. The amount of generated hydroelectric power which was 2000 megawatts in 2000 has now reached 2117. Construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam, which takes the major share of the amount of power scheduled to be generated with in the period, is well in progress. It has been planned to construct its 10 per cent till last year and 9.7 per cent of this has been achieved with in the stated period. More than 915 types of machinery vital for the dam's construction have also been transported to the site.

Diversion of rivers, construction of a 237 meter long dam, checking the underground, constructing resident houses and installation of electric lines to the site have been successfully accomplished. In addition to the grand dam, 14 other power generation projects are in progress in various parts of the country, Kebede said. Sixty per cent of the Gibe three project has so far been accomplished. Projects named Halele Worabesa, Genale Dawa, Ashegoda, and the Adama wind farm are among these projects.

In a nutshell, if the pace of the last couple of years could be kept in the remaining years of the GTP period, the set goals for sector could be successfully achieved, the state minister noted. As the preparations to embark on the major tasks of each specific project have been successfully done in the last couple of years, it is possible to make many of the projects real, he said. "The experience that we have had in the last couple of years is a great input for our future. You can mainly take the Grand Renaissance Dam. Many time-consuming tasks have been performed with in these past two years. The public should keep its unreserved participation in the remaining years too.

Nothing could be achieved without this vital participation." professionals engaged in various sectors should consider it as a great historical and national responsibility and perform at their fullest potential. It is possible to be optimistic with the present overall performance, the state minister says. Ethiopia has the potential to produce 45 thousand megawatts, more than one million megawatts and 7 thousand megawatts of energy from water, wind and sun, and geothermal sources respectively.

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