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It was after a long time that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi made himself available to the media, especially the local one, when about a month ago, the Government Communication Affairs Office organized the first of the likely to become regular press briefings by the chief ideologue of the Revolutionary Democrats. Last Monday was his second session with the media since the office under the leadership of Bereket Simon took matters related to government communication into its own hands. Below are questions raised by local and foreign journalists at the April 13, 2009, press conference in the PMs Office and the responses the premier gave. The issues raised range from the inflation at home to the global economic crisis, as well as from the turmoil around coffee and tax to Gilgel Gibe III project.

Sequel to Meles Unravels All




On Gilgel Gibe III


Q. Concerning the Gilgel Gibe III project, a lot of views have surfaced and some say there is not enough Environmental Impact Assessment; others say it has been done very well. What is your view in this regard and what is the feedback you have from the Kenyan side?


Its environmental impact has to be viewed both in the context of the individual project and also in the context of the general development strategy of Ethiopia. The latter is designed to insure a carbon-neutral or green development program in Ethiopia. This means that we should generate power (electricity) from renewable sources. We have huge potential to do so; a potential to generate more than 60,000Mw of electricity from hydropower; anywhere in the vicinity of 6,000Mw from wind power and 1,000 to 2,000Mw from geothermal power. So, we have a huge capacity and potential to generate electricity from renewable sources.


We have been investing a lot to generate electricity from these sources, not only for our own domestic conception, but also to export to neighbouring countries which are not so endowed. So our electricity generation strategy is environmentally friendly as a whole, not only viewed from the point of view of Ethiopia, but also from the Horn of Africa perspective because we expected to export electricity generated from renewable sources to countries which do not have such resources, including Kenya, Djibouti and Sudan.


In addition to that, we have developed a strategy to, over time, replace fossil fuel resources with bio fuel resources. This is in its early stages so far but we do have that strategy and it is consistent with our carbon neutral approach to development.


We have also been involved in projects that would sequester carbon in significant amounts, mostly through reforestation programs across the country.  So we balance these three pillars of our development strategy - carbon sequestration, biofuel strategy and generation of electricity from renewable sources. We believe that our development strategy is exemplary in its approach to the environment. That is the context within which we view the Gilgel Gibe III project.

As far as Kenya is concerned, some people do not know that much of the electricity generated from the Gilgel Gibe III is going to be exported to Kenya. We already have an agreement, in principle (between Ethiopia and Kenya), to sell electricity generated from the project to Kenya. Indeed, at one stage, the Kenyans were eager to invest in the project itself; they wanted it to be carried out on the bases of joint venture between Ethiopia and Kenya.


While Ethiopia was very happy with it, we were of the opinion that as the project had already made some progress, to restructure it with a view to include equity contribution from Kenya would have delayed the project. That is the only reason why Gilgel Gibe III is an Ethiopian project as opposed to an Ethiopian-Kenyan project. The desire on the part of Kenya was to invest in this hydropower dam itself. I think Kenyans would never think of doing so if they had any reason to believe that the project would in anyway harm the environment of either Ethiopia or Kenya.


Sequel to Meles Unravels All

On the Economy
On Gilgel Gibe III
On Politics and Personal Future
On Global Economic Crisis


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