Gilgel Gibe River

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Gilgel Gibe River is a tributary of the Gibe River in southwest Ethiopia. It flows in an arc through the south of the Jimma Zone, defining part of the Zone's boundary with that of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region west of the Omo River as it turns north. It then joins the Gibe River less than ten miles from its own confluence with the Omo.

Hydroelectric potential[edit]

Plans to develop the hydroelectric potential of the Gilgel Gibe river were first announced in the 1980s.

Construction of the Gilgel Gibe I Power Station started in 1986 and was completed in 2004, after being interrupted in the early 1990s. The plant includes a reservoir of about 850 cubic meters created by a dam about 40 meters high. The Gilgel Gibe river flows are therefore returned to the natural bed after having transformed the energy of the water into electricity through a powerplant equipped with three Francis turbines.

The resettlement program required moving about 3,000 people to new areas including the people living under or near the power line connecting the power plant to Addis Ababa.[1] Employing 307 expatriates from 32 countries and 4,015 local people, the plant was completed at a cost of about two billion birr and became Ethiopia's largest power plant, with a capacity of 184 megawatts.[2]

The second phase of the development of the Gibe-Omo hydropower potential started with the Gilgel Gibe II Power Station. The flows, regulated by the Gilgel Gibe I Dam, will be conveyed through a 26 km long hydraulic tunnel, the longest in Africa, to the Omo river about 2 kilometers downstream of the Gibe I. The plant will produce about 420 MW without requiring resettlement.

This second phase was 97.5% complete in August 2009 and is scheduled for commissioning on September 2009 onwards.[3]

The Gibe III dam[edit]

Main article: Gibe III dam

The Gibe III Hydroelectric dam is a 243 m high roller-compacted concrete dam with an associated hydropower plant under construction on the Omo river in Ethiopia. Once completed it would be the largest hydropower plant in Africa with a power output of about 1870 Megawatt (MW), thus more than doubling total installed capacity in Ethiopia from its 2007 level of 814 MW.[4][5] A controversy has ensued over its construction, with several NGOs forming a campaign to oppose it. According to Terri Hathaway, director of International Rivers' Africa programme, Gibe III is "the most destructive dam under construction in Africa." The project would condemn "half a million of the region's most vulnerable people to hunger and conflict."[6]

However, Azeb Asnake, project manager of Gibe III for the government power provider, said that a mitigation measure has been prepared in case something happens. Apart from this, Asnake predicted no adverse consequence from the project, adding that more than half of the people that live in the area are dependent on food aid and that the new station is necessary as currently the corporation is only supplying power for 25 per cent of the population. [7]


  1. ^ "Gilgel Gibe Resettlement Project in Ethiopia". Archived from the original on November 12, 2004. Retrieved 2007-02-01. 
  2. ^ "New Hydroelectric Power Plant in Gilgel-Gibe Inaugurated by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi" (accessed 22 April 2006)
  3. ^ "New Hydroelectric Power Plant on Gilgel Gibe" (All Africa), subscription required; accessed 21 July 2006
  4. ^ Gibe III Hydroelectric Project Official Website, accessed on October 17, 2009
  5. ^ Energy Information Administration:Ethiopia Energy Profile, accessed on October 27, 2009
  6. ^ BBC:Web campaign against Ethiopia Gibe III dam, 23 March 2010
  7. ^ "Ethiopia - Gilgel Gibe III managers dismiss environmental concerns" 30 Mar 2009. Last accessed 22 Apr 2011.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 6°51′N 37°18′E / 6.85°N 37.3°E / 6.85; 37.3