Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ethiopia’s Undiscovered Gem - the Abay Wәnz

“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry,” said Thomas Fuller (Gnomologia, 1732). This seems to be typically true to most of our fully unutilized rivers, and especially appropriate to the longest river of the continent - Abay Wәnz (Abay River). Although Ethiopia has got several rivers, Awash, Ak’aki, Baro, Ch’elek’lak’a, Didesa, Erer, Genale, Gibe, Omo, to mention a few, they never appeared to be very noteworthy to the country (or perhaps accentuated, as such) until recently, I guess, with the nation’s growing shortage of water and all other natural resources as well as the current global debate of alternative energy. Well, the drastic measures taken to build a gigantic hydroelectric power with our Gibe Wәnz is commendable, though. That could be a panacea to most of the now-and-then power outage that we see now. That being as it may, my today’s piece focuses on one of our potentially rich river, the Abay Wәnz (Abay River). Setting out its journey to the Mediterranean Sea from near the gorgeous town of Bahir Dar, north western part of the country, on the shores of T’ana hayk’ (Lake T’ana) , the Abay Wәnz is really one of the huge wealth of the nation in terms of both tourism and energy resource. Its wonderful scenery and picturesque villages with superb birding and wildlife, whether you’re looking for fish eagles or hippos, lazy days in the sun or thundering whitewater, you will find it all here on the Abay Wәnz. In terms of energy, too, it could be utilized as a colossal hydroelectric power and irrigation for a vast agriculture. The recently released IMAX / OBITAMAX film "Mystery of the Nile", has beautifully portrayed the section of the river between Lake T’ana and the river falls (which is called the Nile Falls). Yes, indeed this river is really a mystery as it’s indicated in the title of the documentary film.
Rising at an altitude of 1,830 m (6,000 ft) in the region of Lake T’ana, the Abay Wәnz flows south and then west in Ethiopia, and follows a northwestern course out of the country in Sudan before merging, at Khartoum, with the White Nile to form the Nile proper. It’s here that the Abay Wәnz gets its foreign name, The Blue Nile, which contributes about two-thirds of the water of the Nile, where it, in part, flows through a deep gorge. As the popular song has it in Amharic “ Abay Abay ye ager Adbar, ye ager sisay ye alageru tesedido...(literally translated as ‘Abay the emblem of a country, the affluence of a nation, obliged to asylum…) this river has so far done more harm than good to the country as it liberally exports all the top and subsoil with all the rich mineral deposits to the neighboring countries. While it’s still definitely a huge resource of the nation, it has hitherto not widely drawn on (I’m not sure if we have ever used 5% of it) in any kind of reserve for national revenue. On the other hand, the river is being dammed for irrigation and hydroelectricity production in the neighboring countries. Whereas their use of this river is something laudable on their part, the incapacity (or perhaps negligence, among other reasons) of Ethiopia not to fully exploit Abay Wәnz (Abay River) is really a mystery behind. Anyways, Abay Wәnz (Abay River) is surely a vast resource of Ethiopia and I believe, as most do, that it’s time we capitalize on the country’s undiscovered gem before the well becomes dry and too late to realize its worth, to borrow Thomas Fuller’s phrases. (This was written in 2009)

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