Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Threats against contractors fail to slow GERD Project

By Eyasu Zekarias, Photo by Anteneh Aklilu

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Despite ongoing threats and intimidation tactics from opponents, construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project remains on schedule to be completed by January 2025, according to the project’s leadership.

Kifle Horo, the general manager of the GERD, reported that contractors involved in the 13-year construction effort have faced continued threats, with some parties trying to lure them away from the project. However, Horo stated that the construction is progressing as planned.

“The opposition has tried various tactics, including intimidation and accusations, to try to stop this project,” said Horo. “But the work continues, and we remain confident we will finish on schedule.”

Some of the recent challenges cited include the burning of the Derba cement factory, which supplies cement for the dam, as well as attempts to block roads and disrupt the delivery of raw materials to the construction site.

“There were no major obstacles when construction was halted years ago, but now that the project is nearing completion, we are seeing increased pressure from those who oppose it,” Horo explained.

Despite these threats, the GERD project has reached 96% completion, with the remaining work expected to be finished by the target date early next year. Dr. Aregawi Berhe, head of the National Coordination Office for the GERD, noted that Ethiopians both at home and abroad have contributed over 19.4 billion birr (approximately $340 million) to support the dam’s construction.

However, Belayneh Aknaw, Deputy Director General of the Ethiopian Diaspora Service, acknowledged that the diaspora’s financial support has been less than 1% of what was hoped for, citing a lack of alternative donation methods and coordination challenges.

To address this, the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia has updated its “It’s My Dam” crowdfunding app to make it easier for the diaspora community to contribute. Bank President Abie Sano reported that the bank has provided over 136.7 billion birr (roughly $2.4 billion) in financing for the GERD project so far, with a total of 241 billion birr expected to be spent by the time it is completed.

Despite the threats and funding challenges, the Ethiopian government remains committed to finishing the ambitious GERD project, which is slated to become the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa upon completion.

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