Ethiopia: Over-Budget Tigray Dam Construction to Restart After War Interruption

The construction of the Zarema Mayday irrigation dam, which was interrupted during the two-year war in Ethiopia’s north, will resume next year, according to the Ministry of Irrigation and Lowland Areas.

The dam was conceived to supply water to the Wolkayit sugar factory, one of 13 sugar factories the Ministry of Finance (MoF) is working to privatize. The factory, located 1,030 Km from Addis Ababa in Tigray Regional State, was prioritized due to its expected capacity to crush 24,000 tons of sugarcane per day. However, privatization plans were postponed due to the war in Tigray.

The Ministry’s Director of Communications, Buzuneh Tolcha, said the dam’s construction, which has been delayed over 13 years, will restart in 2024.

– Advertisement -The Ministry said additional funding will be needed to resume construction of the dam. The project’s cost has ballooned from its original budget of 4.3 billion birr to a total of 15.8 billion birr due to design changes. This makes it the most expensive irrigation project in the country.

The MoF allotted 150 million birr for the resumption of the project for this year, though Buzuneh says the total cost needed for completion is yet to be determined. Officials will need to study the dam’s current condition and resolve security issues before assessing all required costs.

Zarema Mayday is almost a tenth of the size of Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia. When completed, the dam will hold 3.5 billion cubic meters of water and stand 152 meters high.

The dam was originally scheduled for completion in 2003 but has been delayed over 13 years. While the ministry could not quantify the financial losses due to the delay, Buzuneh said they have been “huge” for the Sugar Corporation, which was the owner of the project before the Ministry takeover.

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