In his first ever press conference since taking office last May, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed warned his nation on Saturday that the under-construction Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) "may never see the light of day" if delays on the project continue.
During the press conference, Abiy addressed a wide variety of issues including reform measures, internal conflicts within the country, and progress on the nation’s mega projects, including the GERD.
Abiy said that during a visit to the GERD two months ago, he discovered that electromechanical works contracted to the Metals and Engineering Corporation (MetEC) – which is run by the Ethiopian military – have been delaying the project.
“Salini is completing its part of the project on time and now it is demanding huge payment because the project is lagging from the side of MetEC,” Abiy told the media, referring to Salini Impregilo SpA, an Italian industrial group specialised in construction and civil engineering.
“Thinking big is one thing but accomplishing it is another. We have handed over a complicated water dam project to people who have not seen a dam in their life and if we continue in that direction, the project may never see the light of day,” Ahmed warned.
In 2011, Ethiopia started construction on the GERD over the Blue Nile River, the main tributary to Egypt's Nile.
Ethiopia stresses that the dam is being constructed mainly to generate electricity, and that it is necessary for the country's development. Addis Ababa insists that the dam will not harm downstream countries.
Addis Ababa plans to start filling the dam's reservoir sometime this year. When completed, the dam will be the largest in Africa, with a reservoir capacity of 74 billion cubic metres.
Egypt has repeatedly voiced concerns that the rate at which the GERD's reservoirs are being filled could reduce its share of Nile water, which Ethiopia has dismissed.