Largest hydroelectric dam opens
Addis Ababa - The biggest hydroelectric dam in Ethiopia, financed by Italy, has been opened by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, the ENA news agency reported on Thursday.
The Gilegel Gibe II dam lies on the river Omo 250km south of Addis Ababa, and can produce 420 megawatts of electricity. It cost €281m.
"It's possible to speed up development without polluting the environment," Meles was quoted by the official news agency as saying. Meles recalled that his "government wishes to double the energy capacity of the country in the next five years".
Frattini expressed pleasure in Italy's commitment to a project "whose importance has no equivalent in improving the lives of Ethiopians".
The Italian government provided €220m for the dam in the form of a loan and the building work was carried out by an Italian firm, Salini Construction.
Ethiopia has a considerable hydroelectric potential but is confronted with electricity shortages because of an increase in demand by both industry and households following a major rural electrification programme.
A spate of power cuts last year damaged economic activity, particularly in Addis Ababa.
The government in the poor Horn of Africa country, which has some 80 million inhabitants, has decided to give priority to the production of renewable energy sources.