Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

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The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), formerly known as the Millennium Dam and sometimes referred to as Hidase Dam, is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia currently under construction. The dam is located about 40 km east of Sudan.

Blue Nile
Described as:
- Dam
- Hydropower

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The GERD is a 6,000 MW hydropower dam, which is intended for power generation and not for agricultural purposes. In this respect, it is not anticipated that the dam will reduce water flow downstream as it will only be used for the generation of hydropower based on a catch-and-release mechanism and hence necessitates that it discharge the water downstream. In order to produce energy – and to avoid local floods in Ethiopia – the water needs to be discharged.

Rerouting of the Blue Nile

Rerouting the Blue Nile for the construction of the GERD began in May 2013. This caused much controversy in downstream countries and especially in Egypt, which contested Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to reroute the Nile without full consent of all downstream countries. The rerouting of the Blue Nile however is a process that takes years and during this period the water will be released downstream to avoid local floods. Hence the actual rerouting of the waters should not have any negative impacts on downstream flow as it is a purely technical intervention. However, the political implications and motivation of Ethiopia’s decision to unilaterally reroute the Nile waters remains open for discussion. An additional complication is that there are misconceptions surrounding the GERD’s purpose, which is why it is important to ensure that the public has access to accurate information about the purpose, scope, and ongoing activities for this project.

Cost and Financing

The GERD cost is approximately 4.6 Billion USD. The GERD is currently financed internally by the Ethiopian government with numerous efforts to mobilize resources from the Ethiopian people. Many of these financing schemes designated for the GERD and also for the GIBE III dam on the Omo River by Lake Turkana, are targeting the Ethiopian people’s patriotism towards development.[1] The GERD has been fashioned by the Ethiopian Government and media as a national project to promote patriotism that will bring them out of poverty and allow them to develop further. The financing schemes are done through Bonds through the Ethiopian banks for locals and expats abroad to finance the dams, and are being imposed by the Government through a certain percentage of their incomes. The Ethiopian government has been criticized by the International community for this financing scheme, which in some cases, some lower income households cannot afford but are yet obliged to contribute towards.[1] Many of the problems related to financing of the GERD could be reduced with regional cooperation with downstream countries and potential co-financing from Egypt and Sudan that would help cooperation and bring about true collaboration.

Box 1: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) - Basic Facts[1]

  • 6,000 MW hydropower dam (16 turbines with 375 MW each)
  • Dam site is 20 km from Ethiopian-Sudanese border
  • Energy export to neighboring countries Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan
  • Reservoir capacity: 14 BCM with plans to expand to 70 BCM
  • Cost: approximately $4.6 billion USD
  • To date, funding has been obtained from bond selling and the Ethiopian people
  • Construction began in autumn 2011, with approximately a quarter of the work completed said to be completed by early 2014
  • Relocation of 20,000 people from the dam site


Controversies exist over the GERD's location, potential sedimentation issues, impacts of GERD on downstream flow and impacts on downstream hydropower projects, and the uncertainty the impacts of climate change in the Nile basin.

  1. ^ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Veilleux, Jennifer C. (2013). “The Human Security Dimensions of Dam Development: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam”. Global Dialogue. Water: Cooperation or Conflict? Volume 15, Number 2, Summer/Autumn 2013.

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