Ethiopia inaugurates Gibe III dam

Hydroelectric dam designed to double energy output in Ethiopia.

The Gibe 3 hydroelectric dam has been inaugurated by Ethiopia's prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn who said that the facility would double the country's electricity output.

The 243m-high hydropower plant, which has a capacity of 1,870 MW, is the third-largest dam in Africa and is the biggest in a series built along the Omo River, in south-west Ethiopia.

The dam cost $1.57 billion, 60 per cent of which was covered by a loan from China's Export-Import Bank with the remaining 40 per cent funded by the Ethiopian government.

The plant was built by major Italian construction firm Salini which is currently completing the contentious $4 billion Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile.

When it comes fully online, Gibe III is expected to produce enough power to export energy abroad including to neighbouring Kenya.

However environmentalists have long expressed concerns about the dam's threat to local residents as well as its impact downstream and upon surrounding countries, in particular Kenya's UNESCO-listed Lake Turkana, which derives 80 per cent of its resources from the river Omo.

UNESCO has already condemned the project while Human Rights Watch has accused the Ethiopian government of forcibly moving people from the Omo Valley to free up land for state-run sugar cane plantations.

Ethiopia has invested heavily in the construction of dams in the last decade, hoping to use the electricity they generate not only for its own economic development but also as a valuable export to Kenya to the south, and Sudan and Egypt to the north.