Ethiopian government admits major dam collapse

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Ethiopian government has confirmed the collapse of the recently inaugurated
Gilgel Gibe II hydropower plant; the biggest of the country’s power producing dams with a capacity of 420MW, supplying over a third of the country’s total electricity supply.

The power plant was constructed by Salini an Italian company and was inaugurated on January 13, 2010, after a two year construction delay, in the presence of Italian foreign minister and PM Meles Zenawi.

It had been hoped that the power plant would help solve the country’s load shedding programme, due to an increase in demand following a major rural electrification programme, and its collapse only a week after its inauguration has exposed the country to another bout of power rationing. Ethiopia suffered frequent power outages between January and September 2009.

According to Alemayehu Tegenu, minister of mines and energy, and Meheret Debebe, CEO of Ethiopian Power Corporation, the 26km tunnel that dispatches water from Gilgel Gibe I collapsed as a result of a geological event in the area, confirming a communiqué released by Salini last week.

Refusing to mention who will take responsibility for the catastrophe, the ministers dwelled on the their plans to rebuild the collapsed tunnel. They indicated that experts from Salini are presently working to mend the collapsed part of the tunnel, which spans about 15 metres.

Although the Ethiopian ministers also refused to mention the cost of the repairs, it is believed that the accident falls under the contractual responsibilities of Salini. The project is believed to have cost some 374 million euros with a loan of 220 million euros from the Italian government and another 50 million euros from the European Investment Bank.

Mr. Alemayehu said, the government is now making its utmost effort to curb the possible power shortage. However, power rationing has already begun in Addis Ababa, the country’s capital. Reconstruction of the collapsed part may take a couple of months.

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