New Ethiopia dam tunnel collapses
A water passage tunnel in a recently inaugurated hydropower dam in Ethiopia has reportedly collapsed, an NGO, International Rivers has said.
In a press statement copied to ghanabusinessnews.com, the NGO said a critical water passage tunnel in the newly inaugurated Gilgel Gibe 2 hydropower project in Ethiopia collapsed.
About 10 days after the ceremony, “African Energy Intelligence” and the Italian public channel RAI 3 reported that, the project’s core component, a 26-kilometer-long tunnel collapsed, shutting down operations for an extended period. The repair could take months, the reports said.
The dam which is currently Ethiopia’s biggest power plant has a capacity of 420 megawatts and was built at a cost of 374 million euros. The project channels the water discharged from the Gilgel Gibe 1 Dam through a long tunnel and a steep drop directly to the valley of the Omo River.
The project, being built by Italian firm Salini, had already been delayed by more than two years, the statement said.
The NGO claims that the Gilgel Gibe contract was also awarded without a feasibility study. Adding that construction started – again in violation of Ethiopian law – without an environmental permit.
Italian law and international agreements require that development aid only fund infrastructure projects that are based on international tenders. Yet in violation of that law, and against the recommendation of its own evaluators, Italy’s Ministry of Development Cooperation awarded 220 million Euros in aid money for Salini’s contract on Gibe 2. The European Investment Bank contributed another 50 million Euros, and the Ethiopian government funded the remaining 104 million Euros for the project, it said.
According to the statement, the power project was supposed to be completed in December 2007, but shoddy planning took its toll. Poor geological studies overlooked sandy soils and other unexpected problems. Tunnel-boring equipment got stuck in the mud, and engineers had to redesign the tunnel’s path. Usually contractors carry the risks of such cost overruns. Yet the dubiously negotiated contract for Gilgel Gibe 2 exempts Salini from geological risks, so the Ethiopian electricity consumers and taxpayers ended up with the bill.
This new accident falls under the contractual responsibilities of Salini, and the company must restore the tunnel and cover all extra costs, but it is possible that
part of these costs will again be transferred to Ethiopian taxpayers, the statement said.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi