Chance of Renaissance Dam collapse is 50% due to Ethiopian geology: academic


Tue, 13 Apr 2021 - 12:20 GMT

FILE - Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) – REUTERS

FILE - Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) – REUTERS

CAIRO – 13 April 2021: Water Resources Professor at Cairo University Hani Swelam argued in a phone-in Sunday that there is a 50 percent chance the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will collapse.


"The reason is the presence of faults characterized by steep slopes allowing the occurrence of flooding carrying big amounts of silt," the professor explained saying that the unfavorable geology of Ethiopia is beyond the ability of any company, including the Italian Salini Impregilo executing the project.


"The [Renaissance] dam is located in a geological nature that is one of a kind. Ethiopia has the world's largest fault. That is the Great African Canyon. That canyon is huge. It was the reason the Red Sea was created and it extends to Turkey in the North and Madagascar in the South. That canyon splits Ethiopia into halves and is most evident over 30 kilometers southern the country whose northern part is home to Afar Triangle (geological depression). Fumes come out of that canyon and there are active volcanoes. The Ethiopian Highlands is the most vulnerable to earthquakes in Africa. Heavy rains fall over Ethiopian volcanic mountains whose heights amount to 4,600 kilometers from July to September. Those often cause dams to collapse in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has dozens of small dams whose success rate is just 70 percent. It's also common in Ethiopia to build dams without enough studies and that is the case with the Renaissance Dam whose capacity was raised from 11 billion cubic meters to 74 billion cubic meters on no scientific basis. Building such a large dam in a location that is higher than Khartoum by 350 meters puts Sudan in peril. As the dam is close to the Sudanese borders, if it collapses, the water of its reservoir would hit the Roseires Dam having seven billion cubic meters and located just 15 billion cubic meters away from the Renaissance Dam. After 150 kilometers, lies Sennar Dam whose capacity is less than a billion cubic meters (causing the destruction of Sudan)," the professor detailed.


Swelam highlighted that if the Renaissance Dam collapses, Ethiopia will only lose money unlike Sudan that will be doomed. He added that Ethiopian claims that the dam would provide electricity to 60 percent of the population who live in darkness are inaccurate.


The professor underscored that those live in areas that are higher than the dam's location and are dispersed in mountainous surface so establishing a distribution network requires billion of dollars, which Ethiopia lacks. Similarly, the limited financial resources of Ethiopia make it unqualified to contain the disasters that may be incurred by such a huge hydropower project.


The professor gave examples of collapse incidents in Ethiopia saying that Tekeze Dam built on Tekeze River and having a capacity of nine billion cubic meters had collapsed while it was under construction but got rebuilt three years later. The incident killed 47 individuals, including three workers.


A tunnel extending over 26 kilometers beneath Omo River collapsed twice while also under progress, and collapsed for a third time after its completion in 2010. "Repair works took place for a year, and the company that executed that project is the same that is implementing Renaissance Dam," the professor noted.



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