February 10, 2010

New Authority to Rejuvenate Rift Lakes

Ethiopia: New Authority to Rejuvenate Rift Lakes

Wudineh Zenebe

9 February 2010

A new authority is to be established under the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) with special responsibilities for the lakes in the Rift Valley.

The ministry has hired a consultancy firm, Generation Consult, with which it signed an agreement worth 1.8 million Br to study the situations and propose the structure for the new authority. Five firms, including Desta Horecha Water Supply Engineering, ITAB Consult, and Omega Development had offered their tenders following the ministry's invitation on October 27, 2009.

The new authority will have jurisdiction over Langano, Hawassa, Zeway, Abiata, Shalla, Abaya and Chamo lakes.

"All development work done on or along these lakes will require the permission of this authority," said Fekahmed Negash, director of the Plan, Study, and Follow-up Directorate at MoWR.

One of the immediate works of the new authority, according to the official, will be the recovery of the receding Lake Abiata and charging businesses along the lake for the use of the lake's water.

This lake, located southwest of Addis Abeba after Zeway Town in Oromia, is one of Ethiopia's natural salt lakes. The waters of Abiata have receded five kilometres. The Abiata Soda Ash Factory used to divert the lake water into 16 ponds and evaporate it to extract trona, a mineral used in glass and caustic soda production.

"There are several investments around this lake which are using the water," said Fekahmed.

Part of the reason for the declining volume of water is also the gradual diminution of the Bulbula River, which flows into the lake, the official said.

A study by the Oromia Water Resources Bureau indicated that there are 600 fruit and vegetable growers along the lake who continually pump the water out for irrigation. The soda ash factory has ceased production for the last two years. After National Mining Company, owned by Mohammed Ali Al-Amoudi, bought a majority share in the factory, preparations have been underway to resume production.

Generation Consult is expected to finalise its study and submit its reports to MoWR in six months time. The authority will begin work after the Council of Ministers has appointed a director general for it.

Already, two similar authorities have been established by the order of the Council of Ministers, including the Abay River Authority and the Awash River Authority.

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