WPT University Place – Ethiopia’s Grand Dam Plan

– Welcome everyone to
Wednesday Nite @ the Lab
. I’m Tom Zinnen, I work
here at the UW-Madison Biotechnology Center. I also work for UW-Extension
Cooperative Extension. And on behalf of those folks
and our other co-organizers, Wisconsin Public Television,
Wisconsin Alumni Association, and UW-Madison and Science
Alliance, thanks again for coming to
Wednesday Nite @ the Lab
. We do this every Wednesday
night, 50 times a year. Tonight it’s my pleasure to
introduce to you, Paul Block. He’s a professor here in
the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. He’ll be talking to us about the Grand Ethiopian
Renaissance Dam. And for a state that in
its constitution says that the waters of Wisconsin
shall remain forever free, it’s a big deal to talk
about dams and what they do to communities, to countries
and to international relations. Paul was born in
Winfield, Kansas, grew up in Seward, Nebraska, went to undergraduate
at Valparaiso
University in Indiana, then spent several
years teaching in
Europe and in Africa. And he spent several years
in Minnesota at Rochester, then got his PhD at
the University of
Colorado in Boulder, then post-doc-ed at
Columbia University, went on to Drexel
University in Philadelphia. And then three years ago, he
came here for an interview in January. (audience laughing) And we thought we were
putting him through something and then somebody said, “Oh
yeah, he’s lived four years “in Minnesota,” Hmmm. So I’m delighted to
have Paul here tonight to talk about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in Africa, thank you. – Thank you very much, Tom. (audience applause) Thank you, I appreciate that. Thank you very much for
coming this evening. It’s a really nice
chance and opportunity to be able to present some
of the research activities that are happening
in my research group. And I should very much
state clearly up front that my students and post-docs have done most of this work. So if this is an enjoyable
presentation for you, we can give them the credit. If it falls flat on its knees, then we can blame me for that. So I’m in Civil and
Environmental Engineering. I think mostly about water
resources management. Much of my work is
internationally focused. Some of that work
is in Ethiopia. Some of that work is in
South America as well, although, I do have some
students that are focusing on projects here in Wisconsin, even as close as Lake Mendota. Some students that are
focusing in Texas as well. And then others that
are focused on a more global approach. So I want to emphasize the
fact that I’m an engineer. And although I’m going
to be talking broadly about Ethiopia and about the
Nile and the Nile River basin, I’m not going to inundate you
tonight with facts and figures about hydropower generation. So if you came to hear that,
I’m sorry to disappoint you. But I’m also not a historian, and I’m not an
expert on Ethiopia. But what I’d like to do
to start out is provide a little context. So how is it that Ethiopia
came to be in the state that it is in now? The decisions that are
being made by Ethiopians and Ethiopian government,
the context of Ethiopia within the Nile basin,
what has lead up to that? And again, this could be
an hours-long presentation, and I will have one
slide or so on that. But let’s begin with that. I think many of us, when
we think about Ethiopia, we think about this. We think about starvation,
we think about famine. And I think this
really came into play from this 1984 drought, very
severe drought and famine in Ethiopia. And not only that, it was
one of the first times that pictures were
taken such as this, of these dire
conditions and broadcast on American televisions. And that, in many
ways, set the tone for how many of us do
think about Ethiopia. And this is not inappropriate,
because there is poverty in Ethiopia. And there is struggle
and there is hardship. But Ethiopia is a diverse place, and it has many other aspects
to it much beyond this. This is Ethiopia. It’s very green in many places, and these crops look quite lush. I think this is maybe sorghum
or something like that in the front. In the back, it’s a green
grass that looks a lot like a wheat and
they call that teff, and this is the main grain
that they use in their bread, injera. So so you will find teff
planted many places in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a mountainous
country, also. Some very high mountains. People don’t oftentimes
think about that. It can be very rocky, which makes agricultural
practices difficult. Many places are de-forested,
like this one has been. So the trees are
much more sparse. Other places, there are
these old-growth forests that haven’t been destroyed. Although, estimates say
about 97 percent of Ethiopia has been de-forested. So it’s a very important part of their ecological condition. There are modern
cities in Ethiopia. This the capital, Addis-Ababa. It sits at about
8,000 feet elevation. In a trip there I took
there this summer, I had a colleague
or friend who said, “Well, I hope it’s not too
hot for you in Africa,” as I left Madison, where
it was maybe 90 degrees. It was 72 degrees there, right? And it was the rainy season. So it was cool, and it
was actually very damp. But lots of
construction happening. Lots of people that
look quite modern. And we can contract that
with some of the rural areas, which are much, much
different, and people living in very different kinds
of homes or dwellings. Also in the rural areas,
it’s not uncommon to find something like this,
where you have people and you have livestock sharing
the same resource, right, for drinking, for
cleaning clothes, animals defecating in this. And this has caused
some real, real problems in terms of disease with people. Well, in animals,
as far as that goes. And then you have a mix of
the two at times, right? So this is a modern
city in Ethiopia, beautiful building
in the background, a
brand-new building, Bahir Dar University. And in the front we have a herd of cattle, or not
cattle, a herd of goats moving through. So it’s not uncommon to be
walking down the street, on your feet or on a
bike or in the car, and have to stop suddenly
for some livestock to pass through. And that’s common every day. It doesn’t come as a surprise
to anyone living in Ethiopia. And contrast that with
other parts of Ethiopia that look like this,
desert and flat. And this is a salt caravan. Still very common to see
these in certain parts of Ethiopia, moving
across the landscape, transporting salt. So a few figures
now just to, again, set the context for Ethiopia. This is topography. So this is Ethiopia. These are mountains
on either side, and then the rift valley
runs through the center of Ethiopia. So we have some
very low elevations, some deserts and hot areas here, but some high mountains
in these regions as well. Here’s a zoomed-in
part of the rift valley at the Awash Valley, and
it’s a endorheic basin which means its one of the
few major basins in the world where there’s no outlet
for its lakes and streams. So the water essentially flows
in but then has no outlet. It never actually
reaches the sea. In terms of land cover, you
can see that the western and the eastern side of
Ethiopia are quite different. It’s much more green and,
again, it was mountainous on the western side. The eastern side, much
more flat, dry and desert. The dark green here
are old growth forests. You can see that there
are not as many left in the highlands as
there were historically. Then just thinking a little
bit about precipitation and temperature, what are
some of the meteorological conditions like in Ethiopia? And again, they are
very diverse as well. So in the western side,
the darker blue colors means more precipitation. And on an annual average,
you can see that some places are getting upwards
of two meters of precipitation every year. That’s a lot, that’s a
lot of precipitations. More than we get on
average here in Wisconsin. Other places hardly get
any, only a few inches. So as you might guess, the western half is more of
the breadbasket of Ethiopia. It’s where most of the
agricultural lands are. 85 percent of all people
in Ethiopia are farmers. This is a huge part
of their economic situation, and part of their GDP is the agricultural sector. So 85 percent of
Ethiopians are farmers, and about 99 percent of
those are rain-fed farmers, meaning there’s very,
very little irrigation. I’m not showing it here, but the year-to-year
amount of precipitation can vary a lot. So in some years, they
get sufficient amounts of precipitation to
grow their crops. In other years, there’s
insufficient amounts. And so what happens in
those circumstances, it becomes very important. Many of these farmers
are subsistence farmers, meaning they’re growing
just enough food for them to live on. And so after the
season, they harvest and they store some of
that food and eat that throughout the
remainder of the year. And then they have what
they call the lean season, where, while they’re
planting their crops and waiting for the harvest, they’re hoping that their
stores from the past year have not run out. There are lots of
different programs. Since the 1984 drought, many
NGOs have set-up in Africa, especially in Ethiopia
and provided work, labor for food-type programs, where if there is a
failure of the rains, many of these farmers
do go into the cities and other places and
labor and are able to earn some income that way. But it’s a real, a real
concern in Ethiopia. Temperature, on the right, kind of goes along
with the precipitation. Speaking of food security
or food insecurity, there is this
organization called the Famine Early Warning
Center, or system. And they have a network where
they’re continually doing monitoring of the
crop situation, what do yields look
like, et cetera, during the growing season, to
try to have a good head’s up if possible about where some
of the points of concern or places of concern might be so that we don’t encounter
conditions again like 1984. And a big challenge
with something like 1984 was everything was
very re-active, right? So the idea here is to try to be a little bit more pro-active, although it’s not simple;
it’s still complex. What’s happened historically
in places like this? Well, for example,
if there’s a famine or insufficient amount
of food in Ethiopia or other African
places, historically, grain from the
West, from Europe, from the United States has
been freely given to people in that country. And that’s a wonderful
gesture, right? And it’s important for
those people that are impoverished or starving. But maybe all of those
people happen to be in this part of Ethiopia, and the farmers that are
up here are actually having a relatively normal year
from a climate perspective, and they’re able to grow a crop. Well now, with all this free
food flowing into the country, their crop is really of no
value, they can’t sell it. They can eat it themselves,
but they can’t sell it, right? So in some situations, they’re
not a whole lot better off than their compatriots in
another part of the country. So these things
are very complex. I’m an engineer, right, so
I don’t have any of these economic answers. But we do know that the
situation is very complex. So these type of tools that
are monitoring the situations are quite important. So what about some of the
infrastructure in Ethiopia? Here I’m thinking
specifically about storage and water storage. So reservoirs and
those types of things. And there’s a pretty
strong correlation between the amount of storage
that you have in your country and your economic well-being. So here on the right, we
have how many cubic meters of storage are
available per capita. In the United States, we
have a very high number. So we have a lot of storage. We have many reservoirs. Those might be used
for energy production. They might be used for
irrigation for agriculture, for other reasons
as well, right? But you can see some
of these top countries are some of the
countries with the larger economic or GDPs. In Ethiopia, on this graph,
happens to be way down here. So that’s the context,
that’s part of the situation. A low amount of
storage per capital. Ethiopia is about 90
million people right now, just to put that into context. Water storage can be good,
because it can buffer this variability. If you irrigate your crop
and you have a reservoir, in some sense, maybe
this sounds crass, but you don’t care how much
it rains or doesn’t rain, because you’re just
going to irrigate the difference, anyway right? So you buffer that variability. It’s a little bit
like insurance, but it’s expensive and
it’s controversial, right? Well, that is very much
changing the riparian situation if you’re storing the water. It’s changing the ecology. It’s fish habitat that
might no longer be able to… be the same as it was before. So what about energy comparisons for sub-Saharan African? How do these compare for some
of the different countries in sub-Saharan African? I’m sorry, you probably
can’t read these, but there are a number of
countries up here, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Cameroon,
that have a fair amount of energy production. This is megawatts
per million people. So just to give you
a bit of context, our Hoover Dam in
the United States is rated at about
2,000 megawatts. That’s how much power it
has in terms of capacity. So many of these countries are
doing better than Ethiopia. Ethiopia is down here. And this is a little bit
of an older statistic, so I tried to extend that line to show where they are now. And they’re doing
a little bit better in terms of energy production. And when they bring online
the hydro-power facility that I’m going to present on
and speak mostly about tonight, this is how that will change. So it’s going to change
things drastically… in comparison to other
sub-Saharan countries. It’s going to be an
important piece of not just Ethiopia’s infrastructure, but
the regional infrastructure and arguably, the African
infrastructure as well. So what about
Ethiopia’s energy needs? Here’s a graphic from the World
Water Assessment Programme in which they’re classifying different countries in
terms of global physical water scarcity or
economic water scarcity. So if you have physical
water scarcity, it simply means that
you don’t have enough. Your demands are
out-pacing your supplies. On the other hand, if you
have economic water scarcity, that means that you don’t
have sufficient infrastructure in place to be able
to take advantage of the water resources
that you do have. And that’s where Ethiopia falls. Ethiopia falls into
that economic water
scarcity category. And as you can see, much of
sub-Saharan Africa does as well, which maybe doesn’t come
as a large surprise. Climate change may
change this eventually, but there is still a lot
that needs to be done in terms of infrastructure
development, that point aside. So what about some of
Ethiopia’s energy needs or capabilities? They have a wealth of
hydropower potential, about 30,000 megawatts. Remember, I said Hoover Dam
was about 2,000 megawatts. So they have about
15 Hoover Dams worth of potential hydropower. That’s a lot. And that’s the
hydropower. They could actually
develop more, it just may not pay itself back. There’s only one country,
actually, in Africa, the Democratic
Republic of Congo, that has more
hydropower potential. So Ethiopia– Of course. So Ethiopia sees this as its oil, if you will. They see this as their
mechanism to spur their economy. And they have goals
and ambitions of being a mid-level economy by
some time in the 2020s. And they’re attaching
their wagon to… They’re hitching their
wagon to hydropower as a way to do that. So as of the present, they
have less than 10 percent of that hydropower developed. The context within Ethiopia
is about 80-some percent of Ethiopians still lack
access to electricity. There are some studies that
talk about correlations of education and literacy to access to electricity. So that’s a very
positive development that has externalities beyond
just turning on a light bulb and being able to
see where you are. And many, many people within
Ethiopia are still relying on wood and biomass for
their cooking fuels, where that may transition
if they have access to electricity. Okay, still setting the context, I promise I’ll get
to some of the other, more technical details. So with that, I’m going
to move out a little bit from Ethiopia and talk a little
bit about the Nile River, the Nile basin and how Ethiopia
fits into the context there. So the Nile River is
formed by two main rivers. The first one, here’s Ethiopia,
is the Blue Nile River, and it starts at this lake
here called Lake Tana. So this is at fairly
high elevation, and it flows through these,
through the Ethiopia highlands through a fairly
stark, steep channel out of Ethiopia and into Sudan. And the other half
of the Nile River is the White Nile River,
and it starts farther south, generally at Lake Victoria, although there are some
tributaries to Lake Victoria. That travels north through
Uganda and then through the swamps of Sudan where
it slows down considerably and has large lateral
flow and extent. And then continues on
to Khartoum in Sudan, where it meets the Blue Nile, and then it forms the
main Nile through Sudan, through Egypt and out into
the Mediterranean Sea. So just a few statistics, then: it’s about 6,700
kilometers long, and there are ten countries
that fall within the basin, including South
Sudan now as well. Why the Blue Nile
and the White Nile? I think they were
probably aptly named. The Blue Nile maybe should
be the Brown or Black Nile. So in the summertime, their
summertime is the same as ours, is when they get the majority
of their precipitation, and that’s when the
river rises to its peak. And I think you can see this,
but it carries a lot of, a lot of sediment with it. So it becomes very brown,
very heavy with this sediment. Whereas, the White Nile
carries very little sediment. And if you recall, I said
it goes through these swamps where, if there
is some sediment, a lot of that settles out. So I probably should
have put a picture, but if you look at a
photo, an aerial photo of where the two rivers come
together, you can clearly see which one is the Blue Nile
and which one is the White Nile. They look starkly different due to the sediment load. So again, the Nile River, a
very long and rich history. We could spend hours
talking about this. Egypt is the gift of the Nile, and there’s a lot of
founding civilizations. Civilizations, I should
say, were found along the Nile River and
depended on it. Very much even so
today, alright? A lot of religious
connotations with the Nile, long historical, you know,
searches for the sources of the Nile that carried on
for centuries and centuries. And then colonialism,
we have to remember, is a part of this story as well. So all of the countries, minus
one, that are in the space were colonized at some point. The country that was
not was Ethiopia. And they’re actually
very, very proud of this, if you talk to them. Their sovereignty is something
that, that they hold up. They were occupied during
the Second World War for maybe four years
or so by the Italians, but they were never colonized. If you go to Ethiopia
now, sometimes you can see some storefront that doesn’t
look like anything reputable on the outside
and you go inside, and maybe still there’s
nothing really to attract your attention, but one
of the chief outputs, agricultural outputs
of Ethiopia is coffee, so coffee beans. And then I don’t know if this
is completely true or not, but then you had this
Italian influence, right? So you go into one of these
shops and you see this beautiful stainless-steel
Italian espresso maker, bring in the Ethiopian
coffee beans, and you have a wonderful
beverage there. So I don’t know that Ethiopians
were excited about this, this period in their history, but they do make good
coffee, that’s for sure. Okay, so my only slide
on the background there. What I’d really like to
focus a little bit more on is the Nile River allocations. How is the water used or parsed
out between these countries? And this forms a huge
topic in the literature on hydro-politics. So hydro-politics,
across many, many different disciplines. So speeding up and skipping
a lot of different things, there’s this very important
agreement of 1959, or Treaty of 1959, where the waters of
the Nile were allocated to Egypt and to Sudan. And this was still under a
period of colonialism for Sudan. So Egypt negotiated
this with Sudan, who was a British colony, right? And Egypt, a former
British colony, so there’s a little bit of that history as well, okay? But the water
essentially is allocated between these two countries. And so this agreement, according to the
countries of the basin, was only agreed upon,
or signed-off on, by the Sudanese and by
the Egyptians themselves. So what this says is, all the
water coming from these rivers shall be kept in the river, and Sudan will have access
to 25 percent of that flow and Egypt will have access
to 75 percent of that flow, which essentially has left
the upstream countries with zero rights, or zero allocation by name. Now that doesn’t mean
that they couldn’t, the upstream countries
could do no development, and they have done
some development, but it’s been limited. It’s been limited. And of course, Egypt has
been the strongest country in terms of economy
in the region, and so that has played
into this as well. Well, if we fast-forward
then to just a few years ago, there’s this Entebbe Agreement, where the other
upstream countries, minus about one or two of them, have signed on to this to say, “We officially call this
1959 treaty invalid. “We are not going
to abide by this. “We don’t believe that we
were ever party to that.” And so that’s the
context right now. As you can believe,
Sudan and Egypt have not signed
on to that, right? And it’s probably not in their
best interest to do that. I don’t know that I would
either if I were in their shoes. So without trying
to lay any judgment, that is the context and
that is the situation. But what does Ethiopia actually
contribute to the Blue Nile? What do they contribute
to what goes to Egypt? So here’s the Blue Nile
and here’s the border with Egypt and Sudan. And about 45
billion cubic meters per year on average
passes that point, okay? And this turns out to be about,
there are other tributaries, and of course the White Nile,
but this turns out to be about 60 percent
of the total flow that makes it to
the High Aswan Dam. Okay, so about 60
percent of that comes from the Blue
Nile from Ethiopia. Well, Ethiopia also has
some other tributaries, both north and south
of the Blue Nile that are part of the Nile Basin. And it turns out, overall,
Ethiopia contributes about 85 percent of the total
flow that makes it to Egypt. Again, just setting the context. Okay, is that a point
for contention or tension? Probably so, right?
Probably so. Is it unique in the world? No, right? There are many, many different
international basins. As a matter of fact,
there are 260 different international basins globally. And about 40 percent of
the world’s population live in those basins. A decade and a half
ago, Kofi Annan, I’m sure most of
you know, said that, “Fierce competition
for fresh water “may well become a source
of conflict and even wars “in the future.” And that very well
is and could be true. However, to date, there
really are no wars, according to a research scholar, a professor, Aaron Wolf,
at Oregon State University, over water. There are no wars that have
been fought over water. But there are some
notable exceptions. And when I say
notable exceptions, sometimes where, perhaps,
we’ve gotten close, right? But things haven’t
escalated to that level. Just a few of them, quickly: some of you may be familiar
with the Picnic Talks in Israel, between
Israel and Jordan, where there was a
contentious period, I want to say in
the 1950s or ’60s, about allocations of
the Jordan River itself. And they actually worked
out an agreement informally… to alleviate some
of these tensions, and the escalation
before anything, long before anything
formally was decided. The Mekong River, there’s the
Mekong River Basin Commission, I believe it’s called, and that has
contracts and compacts between the countries. And this compact
continued to function throughout the Vietnam War,
even though those countries, I guess one could say, were
bitter enemies at the time. And then the last example,
which I appreciate… thinking about
India and Pakistan, there’s the Indus River
which flows from India to Pakistan, and
they have a compact that is set up that India
must let so much water pass per month or per year. And this was in place
in the 1950s and ’60s when they had many conflicts. It was during one
of those conflicts that India failed on its part to pass a certain amount
of water to Pakistan. But even though there was
this conflict or this war that was happening between
these two countries, India paid its fine to
Pakistan for that happening. So the big context here is, I think there’s some
appreciation for
water internationally. And there’s some
appreciation for… the international
trans-boundary rivers and the compacts that
have been set up. But at some point, this
may not hold, right? At some point, we
may see conflict. Let’s hope that’s not
in the Nile Basin. So back to the Nile Basin. So this is the situation. In 2011, Ethiopia announced, literally
announced to the world, that Project X was underway. And what this turns out
to be is this is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. And they had started
construction, and it really came as
a surprise to everyone. It was maybe one of
the best-kept secrets, at least regionally. What else was happening? Well, coincidentally
maybe, if you say, what happened or was announced
during the Arab spring time. So Egypt was, perhaps, in a
bit more situation of turmoil. So maybe it was opportunistic. I can’t say for sure. But it is the first
dam in Ethiopia that is being constructed
right on the main stem of the Blue Nile. So Ethiopia does have some
other much, much smaller facilities that are built
on these tributaries. But this is truly important, because it’s the first one
that will actually block the river on this main
stem of the Blue Nile. So as you can imagine,
this got attention of downstream countries. And the downstream countries
that we now are going to be talking about are
Sudan and Egypt. And those are the two
countries that are downstream of Ethiopia that utilize these
waters from the Blue Nile. So there have been on-again,
off-again discussions and talks by this
tripartite committee, which constitutes
these three countries. And I will say it’s been
anywhere from handshakes and agreement on parts
to military threats. There’s the famous story of,
maybe a couple years ago, where there was a
high-level diplomatic– just a high-level government
meeting of Egyptians, and they didn’t realize
they were being mic-ed and on television, and one of these
high-ranking officials said, “Well, if they don’t
stop construction, “we may just have to
take military action “and fly in there and bomb it.” And of course, that got
lots of attention, right, once that got out. So it’s gone from that
to all the way to now where we hope we’re in
much more of an agreeable, amicable situation. And there’s some ways forward. So we’ll talk a
little bit about what some of those issues are. So very quickly, what are
some of the advantages and disadvantages of
large-scale storage, in general? Well, storage can
provide flood protection, hydropower generation,
regularization of flow. So instead of this big flood
wave that comes in the summer, more even flows throughout
the year, a reliable supply, recreation, navigation,
many of these things. Well, what are some
of the drawbacks? These are generalities,
right, for all storage, large-scale storage. You’re inundating now. The reservoir is inundating
a large swath of land. You may be relocating people, trapping lots of sediment
behind this reservoir, changing the flows of the river, the ecology of the river. And then if it fails, of course, that is of huge concern to
the inhabitants downstream. Okay, so finally, half an
hour into the presentation, we get to the
Renaissance Dam itself. And this is a schematic of
what the Renaissance Dam is to look like, and then
this blue outline is the expected reservoir boundaries. And it’s been under
construction, as I said, since about 2011, and
is expected to finish in probably 2018 as of now. The chief engineer, as of now, says that they are about 45
percent of the way completed with construction. It’s going to have a
large generating capacity, about 6,000 megawatts. So again, for my comparison
with the Hoover Dam, that’s about three Hoover Dams. It will be the
largest dam in Africa, in terms of size and in
terms of generating capacity. Its reservoir size is enormous, we’ll say that, it’s enormous. And it’s going to
be very expensive. Now so far, Ethiopia has
decided to self-finance this themselves. So they are asking for
bonds from their people and from the ex-pats that
live, you know, in the U.S. and in other places
to help fund this. There’s a great sense of
pride in Ethiopia about this. Government employees are
asked to give one month of their salary
towards this project, and we certainly hope that it
can continue to be financed. But that’s a real
question, right? Can it be financed
the whole way through? So just a couple pictures
you might be able to see, or not so well. So you can see this in
Google Earth quite well. So this is a Google
Earth zoomed-in picture. And this is the dam itself. Okay, so you can see the
river still continues to flow through, and they’re
building on both sides. From this point, this
will be one abutment. All the way over here will
be about another abutment. That’s about a mile, okay? So it’s a very, very long dam. I’ll show you some
more pictures. But this is the dam. Well, what else happens on
a dam construction site? This is the blasting area, and they built a whole
cement factory, of course, enormous amounts of
cement that go into this. And this is the community,
right, that’s been built. About 9,000 people
are working on the dam at any given time. Here’s the cement factory,
and just to show you the scale of what has to happen for
such a large infrastructure project to take place. We zoom in a little bit. Again, this is the dam here. The water will flow through
both sides, here it will divert. So eventually, this
will be blocked off. This will be the final
piece of construction, and water will be diverted
through both sides. And one power house
will be on this side, and another power house
will be on that side. Here’s a picture just to start
to give scale a little bit of one side of that facility. I had to show one
picture of myself there. You probably can’t see it, but I actually have my eyes
closed, it was a very bright day but this down here,
if you can see that, is one of those enormous trucks. It’s not a typical-size
dump truck, it’s an enormous truck that
you might find at a mine or something like that. So this is just to give
you an idea of scale. And they’re about, again,
50 percent of the way, so they’re going to
be all the way up here by the time that they’re done. I’m going to try to play
this just very briefly, if I can. Okay, maybe it won’t
play, which is fine. But this is looking upstream, and then it just panned
across to show you what downstream
looked like as well. But even though this
is looking upstream, it’s a similar scene
looking downstream. And there are mountains at
about this point downstream, and those mountains
are in Sudan. So we’re talking about, on the
order of 15 to 20 kilometers from the Sudanese border. So this dam is right on the
border with Ethiopia and Sudan. One more picture here. Again, here’s the
dam zoomed out. And over here, we have a
second dam that’s being built. It’s called a saddle dam. And this is five kilometers
or about three miles long. Just piles and piles of rock, and it’ll have a
concrete face on it. And the reason for
this is so that they, this is the low
spot in the area. So they can raise it, and it
allows them to get a lot more volume in their reservoir. I also don’t know
if you can see this, but you can see that there’s
a slightly different color between here and here. So this area is still treed. All of this has
been de-forested. And so this line between the
two different shades of grey is where essentially
the boundaries of the reservoir will
be, or the shoreline. So they’ve deforested and
collected all these trees. One, so they can use them, but also, so that there’s
a reduction in the amount in methane that’s released
once inundation starts. Okay, so what does this all
mean for downstream countries? What do Sudan and
Egypt think about this? Is there an agreeable
way forward, or not? So some of the benefits
and costs to Ethiopia, they’re very
interested, obviously in generating hydropower
for themselves. But they are also going to
have to export much of that to the neighboring countries. Presumably, this will be a
humanitarian boost to Ethiopia, as well, but the financing is
a real question mark, okay? So $5 billion is a lot of money. Some of the benefits
and costs to Sudan. Well, there will be
this idea of regulated or more even stream flow
which is a good thing, in some ways, for
their hydropower. They might be able to irrigate
a second cropping season in some places, and Sudan is
very interested in doing that. And it provides some
flood control as well. It’s going to be a silt trap
and it’s going to hold back a lot of the sediment. That’s good and that’s bad. It’s good in terms of the
hydropower facilities downstream in Sudan, now won’t have
to deal with this problem. They have a lot less sediment. But there’s a
historical practice of flood recession agriculture, where this flood wave
comes down and lays out these nutrients on the
banks of the river, right? And the floodwaters recede,
and farmers come down and plant on this nutrient-rich
soil, get wonderful harvests and then they move back up
and the cycle repeats itself. That practice will
completely go away. The reservoir here is
a much higher elevation at the reservoir, say, behind
some of Egypt’s facilities, specifically the High Aswan
Dam, which is in the middle of the desert. And so the evaporative
losses are going to be quite different
between those two. There might be cheap
electricity available to downstream countries,
but they also may be subject to less control of the river. So one piece in particular that some of my students,
one who is here, has been focusing on is, Well, not only how do
we operate this thing in the long-run, but how do
we fill this reservoir up? Not physically
how do we fill it, we know how to do that,
but how do we fill it? Ethiopia has sunk lots of
money into building this dam. And just by pure
economics, they would like to fill this up more quickly
so that they can start generating electricity,
sooner than later. If they wait 20 years from now, economics say they’re not
going to be able to get as much return on their
investment, right? Downstream countries
probably are not in favor of Ethiopia filling it
up so quickly, right? Their lives and
livelihoods are dependent upon these waters. So what’s an
agreeable way forward? And so we looked at three
different things here, okay. Ethiopia is interested
in hydropower generation. Sudan, somewhat, but
they’re really interested in irrigation water. And Egypt is really interested
in in-flow to Lake Nassir, which is behind
their High Aswan Dam, which is their main storage
facility for hydropower and for irrigation
downstream as well. So how do some of
these different… How would different options
for filling the reservoir play out for these three
different countries? Maybe I’m giving this
away a little bit, but it turns out now that Sudan, that’s the first
country downstream is very much in
favor of this dam. They see a lot of
benefits coming from this. So they essentially are
on-board with Ethiopia building this dam. Egypt, on the other hand,
still has some challenges with this construction
going forward. So again, this is the area, the basin that drains to the
Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. And this is generally what
the precipitation looks like, if you say January
through December. So most of the precipitation
in their summertime. And this big flood
wave that also comes in late summer as well. This is maybe not
an intuitive figure, but what this is is streamflow
at that point every year. And so what I want
to point out here is, we have some periods of
very high stream flow and some periods of
very low stream flow. So I’m not going to
get into too much here in this presentation, but
when they close the gates and start filling the reservoir, it’s a very, very
different situation if we get some years like
this than if we get some years like this, all right? It’s a very different situation. Okay, so just real quickly for those of you that might
not be hydropower buffs, what are we interested in? Well, to generate power,
we need two things. We need to have head, and
that’s this difference behind the level
in your reservoir, behind the level of the
surface water in the reservoir and the level downstream. So you want to get that
as high as you can. And flow, how much water can
you get through your pipes to generate electricity? So those are the two things
that we’re most concerned with. So we have a system
of models that we use. We take a hydrology model
and put that through a reservoir model. It’s a decision-making model. So this is the
Renaissance Dam model. And then how does that
play out downstream? So modeling that as well. So just one slide on
our hydrology model. We take many of these
meteorological conditions and we’re able to say, “Okay. What is
stream flow, then, “coming into the reservoir
behind the Renaissance Dam?” Jumping over to the
Water Balance Model, this is the
Renaissance Dam itself. But then we have also
these other, the White Nile and other contributions as well, so that we can see what does
that mean for stream flow at different points
along our system. And then thinking a little
bit about some of these reservoir-filling policies. We can come up with many,
many different policies. We’ve looked at two
different varieties. There are two
different varieties that I’m going to present here. One is that Ethiopia
could simply decide to impound a certain
fraction of water that passes by every
month or every year. So they could say, “Well,
we’ll take five percent “or 10 percent or 25 percent
of the water that passes. “We’ll keep that amount. “The difference will
be passed downstream.” That’s one type of policy. Another type of policy
could be such that, well, what if we take the
long-term, historical average, so what on average passes? And if there was
more water than that, Ethiopia or that
amount can be impounded behind the Renaissance Dam? If it’s less than that,
we have to pass all of it. So what does that look like? Well, in a year like this,
where you get lots of water, and here’s the
historical average, Ethiopia would get to
keep that much water, whatever that amount is, okay? If it’s less, they
could impound none. So looking at a few of these. One thing that people might
be interested in then, is, well, how long
does it actually take to fill this reservoir? Are we talking two
years, fifty years? And under some of these
different filling polices, we’ve run out some of these
scenarios where this is months. And it turns out in
some of the policies where you’re
impounding more water, it takes about six or
seven years, on average, to fill the reservoir. Now remember, and I’m
emphasizing “on average”, if there are a few successive
dry years, it may take longer. If there are some
successive very wet years, it could take less time. It turns out that if
you only filled it at about five
percent each month, I don’t think it would
ever fill up, right? And that’s because
we have some losses just due to evaporation as well. So that’s probably a policy
that’s not going to be selected. So on average, it’s
about six years after filling has
started in earnest. And so then we can
start to think about what does this
mean for Ethiopia? So we can look at some
of the different policies and how much hydropower
is generated. And no surprise, for
some of the policies where we’re able to
impound more quickly, the Renaissance Dam
is able to generate hydropower more quickly. And we can start to think
about what this means in terms of downstream
flows as well. So the black line here
is historical flows. Each of these different
policies has more or has less downstream flow,
but to what extent? Sudan and Egypt are going to
be very interested in this for their planning purposes. Maybe not the best kind
of graphic to show, but what I’d like to say
here is, we looked at two different locations. One in Sudan, where there’s
this extremely large crop-irrigation scheme. And what would it look
like in terms of reductions there of water, depending
on how much we reduced it at the Renaissance Dam? So remember, a 10 percent
reduction at the Renaissance Dam doesn’t mean 10
percent in Sudan, because there are other
tributaries along the way. So in general, a 10
percent reduction there means about an eight
percent reduction, or something like that. What about this 25
percent filling policy? Maybe it means 22
percent reduction. But at some point, maybe
after about six years, that tails off, right? But there will always
be some reduction due to evaporative losses
from this reservoir. And what does that mean
for Egypt downstream? Believe me, Egyptians
are very, very interested in these types of
numbers, right? So for a 25 percent flow policy
during that filling stage, our calculation are saying that’s about a 12
percent reduction. So it’s a very real number that Egyptians would like to re-operate or
at least plan for. One figure only to say
that climate change will come to bear on this, it’s unclear how right
now, but many of the models are projecting a general wetting
in this part of the world, which will hopefully work
in favor of those countries. And in the end we can say, “How much water does that mean “will reach Lake
Nassir, in this case?” Okay, so just a couple
of thoughts here. Some of the major
remaining challenges. Right now there is no
agreement between these three countries on
the filling policy. And we and many others
see this as a real gap because this lack of
planning, in the end, will probably harm all the
countries to some extent, some maybe more than
others if there’s not this agreed-upon policy. So I think it’s
certainly in the interest of the countries to do this. There have been talks
and negotiations, but as of yet, no formal policy. And we are not that
many years away from filling
happening in earnest. Further analysis needs
to be done on what some of the downstream impacts are, chiefly, of course,
in Sudan and Egypt. What is this going to
mean for those countries? There’s no
trans-boundary agreement. We have these
historical agreements. But with this new dam going in, we have a whole new
hydroclimatic regime, or at least a whole
new hydrology regime. And there’s really no, no
instance that I know of where you have or will have
these two major, major assets, the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia and the High Aswan Dam in Egypt that are uncoordinated, okay? That their actions
and their operations are uncoordinated. So there’s very little
evidence that I’m aware of and that could be a
recipe for disaster. And then this idea of Ethiopia is going to generate
a whole lot more hydropower than they’re going
to be able to absorb. I think there’s no
question about that, at least in the near term. So they’re going to need
to export a lot of this. So that means a lot in
terms of transmission, in terms of setting up
these contracts, et cetera. So the bottom line is,
there’s a lot happening, but there’s a lot more
that needs to happen in terms of
cooperation, I believe, to address some of
these major challenges. And so with that, I will be
happy to take any questions. But thank you for
your attention, and I have some
information there if you’d like to be in contact. (audience applause)

23 thoughts on “WPT University Place – Ethiopia’s Grand Dam Plan

  1. This man did not oppose egypt when she built her dam decades ago, when Ethiopia is building her own largest dam in Africa that will benefit Ethiopia and several African countries why is he disturbed?

  2. what do u think i feel as an Ethiopian by lookin this presentation especially the words he used as an intro.still a lot things to be done to change the image of our country.mr presenter please try to be posetive on Africa.

  3. Ethiopia is using its own water resources in the country and I believe it has the right to do. It was the mistake of the so called colonial masters of Egypt and Sudan they were intoxicated with lots of alcohol that was the reason why they failed to consider the others around the Nile River. What a stupid decision, only Egypt (75%) and Sudan(25%) have the right to use the water resources from the Nile.

  4. it's is a perfect analysis more or less! but down stream countries like Egypt might b worry nd negotiation on the time to feel the dame. cause the water will not b stopped from it's flow it's just serculat or hit the turbine nd keeps it's flow! they must 4get the old agreements nd focus on working with the rest of African's. being bully ain't tack no body no where! one love!

  5. your are such an extraordinary biased person! you are very sly and you ALWAYS manipulate the truth and facts. for example, at one point you say that this dam will regulate the flow which is good for hydropower in Egypt, but still you say that the evaporation losses is less on GERD than in egypt, for YOUR information Mr. sly: in order to make this hydropower Egypt needs the storage in its dam too, so there will be the losses PLUS the GERD dam losses. you didn't mention the Billion cubic meters of seepage losses .. you are one of the most unscientific people I heard

  6. Ethiopia is rejecting EVERY suggestion made by Egypt, every compromise .. and then Ethiopia complains about Egypt's attitude? Egypt just has some un-answered critical concerns .. for example: the safety factor of dams world wide should be within 7-11 .. the GERD is 1.5!!! the Italian contractor which is doing the GERD had at least 2 dam failures in Ethiopia alone!

  7. I'm not opposing Ethiopia to build a dam nor to prosper, on the contrary, we are all humans, and we care deeply for all Ethiopians. we just need to cooperate and compromise.

  8. Is Egypt going to share its oil and cotton and antiquities with Ethiopia. Hey Egypt, want free water, send us some free pyramids.

  9. Excellent presentation Professor Block. I want you to know that the dam's capacity has been upgraded from 6000 to 6450 MW.

  10. Lake Nasser needs to be filled with at least a 2 (year) supply of water for Egypt before the filling of the new dam begins, then it should only take 2 (two) monsoon seasons to fill the new lake.
    After the filling of the new lake, Lake Nasser will no longer be needed.
    It may be cheaper to deliver to Egypt electrical power from the new dam than to by pass Lake Nasser with canals / tunnels.

  11. Bro RS Egyptians are still toxicitd from colonial past serving thay masters thanks to brave forefathers thay didn't had to do that & ethiopia will never do that beside black African brothers in in Sudan facuk the arbe bastards thay can go to hell.

  12. Here is what most Egyptians tent to forget….There was a time when the wedth of river Nile in Cairo was so vast that it was so close to the pyramid than it is now., a proof that Dam or no Dam the river is declining due to global warming and deforestation on upstream nations where seasonal rain feeds in to the Nile, specialy Ethiopian Highlands where it is thought to be the source of 85% of the entire anual flow……hence Egyptians have always wittingly fought against their own interest by conspiring against Ethiopia that is trying to reduce deforestation by producing as much electricity as possible for its growing population who would otherwise resort to choping trees for energy…..simply put it this way, a poor and populous Highland would lead to a dry bold dry Highlands, hence low rain if not to complete lack of rain at all…. If I was an Egyptian, I would worry about every firewood crying Ethiopian mum than a very project that is trying to reduce that….Egyptians needs to come out of their old chovenist mentality and accept respect and mutual benefit for all..If anything Egyptians should feel they have vested interest in the wellbeing of Ethiopians rather than the opposite……Greed can be counterproductive…

  13. You are talking about colonial agreements …real non sense. So biased presentation.

  14. From start to finish this guy have been extremely unprofessional and biased. A classic type of someone who has never been out of their small town. Ethiopia doesn’t need no one’s help in assessing the dams pros and cons. Egypt didn’t consult Ethiopia regarding Aswan dam nor their canal. In fact what they’ve told the Ethiopians was “we can do whatever we want in our country” and yet they want to be consulted. I’m ashamed for Ethiopia to even consider any form of dialogue regarding the dam. ETHIOPIA needs to use her resources as needed. If Egypt wants Ethiopia to fill the dam slowly then Egypt needs to sell their oil and pay the Ethiopians to live comfortably until then. If not Ethiopia needs to fill it up ASAP and get their money back. It’s just business 101.

  15. The funny part that Egyptians said about Abay is " Nile is a gift from God to Egypt " .
    Can someone tell me pls, why God put a Nile river in Ethiopia ? ? ? ????

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