A new hydropower plant with a generating capacity of 460MW has gone into operation in a boost to the struggling power sector in Ethiopia.

The Tana Beles Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project on the shores of lake Tana in the northwestern highlands is the third hydroelectric project to be inaugurated in the 2009/2010 budget year. The others are the Tekeze Hydropower Project (300MW) in Tigray Regional State and the Gilgel Gibe II (420MW) in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) Regional State, although the latter had to be shut down temporaily for repairs following the collapse of the headrace tunnel after just a few days.

The new facility has been built by the Italian civil engineering company Salini at a cost of 7.1 billion Birr, financed by the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation and loans from development partners. For now only one of the four 115MW turbines is in operation, but the others are expected to be activated in the coming months.

Other hydropower projects in development include the controversial 1,800MW Gilgel Gibe III project in southwestern Ethiopia, also being built by Salini, which critics say could have a devasting effect on the environment and human population in the lower Omo river valley.

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