By Tesfa Alem Tekle
February 8, 2010 (ADDIS ABABA) — A water passage tunnel in Ethiopia’s recently inaugurated 420 MW hydropower plant has reportedly collapsed, an NGO, International Rivers said.
In a press statement emailed to Sudan Tribune, the global NGO said that the Gilgel Gibe II project’s core component, a 26-kilometer-long tunnel has partly collapsed, ten days after inaugurated, shutting down operations for an extended period.
The claims couldn’t independently be verified at this point. Repeated attempts by Sudan Tribune to interview the Ethiopian Electric and Power (EEPCo) Spokes person didn’t work after the official, once reached by phone; decline to comment on the reports.
The repairs could take months, the report said adding this new accident falls under the contractual responsibilities of Salini, the Italian construction giant, Salini Costractori SpA.
The group in its statement has asked the Italian company to cover maintenance costs itself and not Ethiopia’s taxpayers.
Gibe II is Ethiopia’s first and biggest hydroelectric power generating plant that does not have its own dam. The US$ 407 million power project, uses water from its sister project Gibe I, through a long tunnel and a steep drop directly to the valley of the Omo River.
International Rivers argues that the Gilgel Gibe project was awarded without an environmental impact assessment, in violation to Ethiopia’s own law – without an environmental permit and any further extension projects along the Omo River could lead to Environmental Devastation.
“If completed, the Gibe 3 Dam will devastate the fragile ecosystems of the Lower Omo Valley and Kenya’s Lake Turkana, on which 500,000 poor farmers, herders and fisher folk rely for their livelihoods,” says International River’s Africa Director Terri Hathaway.
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 the capital, Addis Ababa. The government in the poor Horn of Africa country which has some 80 million populations has decided to give priority to the production of renewable energy sources.
International Rivers is a non-profit, non-governmental, environmental and human rights organization based in Berkeley, California, United States. Founded in 1985 by a host of social and environmental activists, International Rivers works with a global network of policy and financial analysts, scientists, journalists, development specialists, local citizens and volunteers to address destructive dams and their legacies in over 60 countries.
International Rivers’ self-stated mission is to protect rivers and defend the rights of communities that depend on them, to actively oppose the unsustainable development model that dams perpetuate, and to promote viable solutions for meeting water, energy and flood-management needs. The organization is dedicated to empowering dam-affected people with the tools to participate in the process of development of local lands in Africa, Asia and Latin America.