President Sahlework Zewde and Seleshi Bekele (PhD), minister of Water & Irrigation, attended a symposium dubbed Ethiopia Water & Energy Week on June 17, 2019, at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel. The event attracted a wide range of professionals, researchers and leaders from various sectors, both local and international.
Organised under the headline "Transformation of Water & Energy Sector for Ethiopia's New Horizon of Hope," it underscored the irony that it is being held at a time when the sector is delivering more hope than results. The country is going through a power rationing scheme where households and businesses go dark for eight hours a day. The official reason for the power rationing is that the nation's hydroelectric dams are operating at half their capacities due to lack of water in their reservoirs.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam project in Africa, was launched with much public fanfare and anticipation but is now languishing in delays and cost overruns. Initially budgeted for 80 billion Br, the project cost has since mushroomed to 98 billion Br. Ethiopians from all walks of life have contributed over 12 billion Birr to date for the project. The Ministry has done its best to use the opportunity offered by the occasion to reboot the public's enthusiasm in the project by showing off a model of its progress and by updating Sahlework on its current efforts. The symposium had various items on its three-day agenda including plenary sessions, presentations and a tree planting event. A range of discussions were held covering water and energy sector issues, sanitation and hygiene, basin development, irrigation, energy and the submission of several research findings.