NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia has started generating electricity from the controversial mega-dam being built on the Blue Nile.
The milestone was reached on Sunday morning when one of the 13 turbines of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam kicked off power generation at an event chaired by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
“From now on, nothing will stop Ethiopia,” Abiy said.
The dam will be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa when completed.
“We have only just started generating electricity, but that does not mean the project is finished,” said Kifle Horo, the dam’s project manager. “It will take two and a half to three years to complete it.”
The dam, which will have a total power generation capacity of 6,500 megawatts, has been a source of tension between Ethiopia and the other riparian states, Sudan and Egypt.
Ethiopia has already filled the dam twice, but how quickly it will be filled and how much water will be released during drought seasons remains unresolved.
Egypt fears that a rapid filling of the dam could reduce its share of the Nile’s waters and is seeking a binding legal agreement in the event of a dispute.
But Abiy said the dam would benefit Egypt and Sudan.
“We want to export our clean electricity to Europe via Sudan and Egypt, so the way forward is cooperation between us. Ethiopia does not want or intend to harm anyone else,” he said.
Ethiopia says the $4.2 billion dam is essential to its development and will allow it to distribute electricity to its population of more than 110 million.
Several rounds of talks took place in an attempt to resolve the impasse.
Construction of the dam began in 2011 and the completion date was missed years ago due to embezzlement and design flaws.
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