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Monday, 12 August, 2002, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Work starts on giant Ethiopian dam
Tekeze low lands
The dam will help irrigated northern Ethiopia
The construction of a $224m hydroelectric dam in Ethiopia has begun, marking the start of China's largest joint-venture in Africa.

China National Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Corporation (CWHEC) will build the main concrete dam for the Tekeze Hydro-Power Project (THPP).

The dam, which at 185 metres is 10 metres higher than China's controversial Three Gorges Dam, and installation of a 300 megawatt power plant is expected to take five years to complete.

CWHEC was awarded the contract in June, beating bidders from Germany, Italy and Japan, to build the dam for the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation

The company works on almost 80% of China's water projects and is a major contractor on the Three Gorges Dam.

Water management

The country has abundant water resources but the agriculture sector, the country's most important industry, suffers frequent droughts.

The Tekeze dam will help irrigate large tracts of northern Ethiopia.

Coffee is the main crop and contributes about 10% to the gross domestic product and employs about 15 million people, or 25% of the population.

The Tekeze River is a tributary of the Nile, running through the northern Tigray region and then into Eritrea.

Chinese Construction Minister Wang Guangtao, Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia Ai Ping and senior Ethiopian government officials attended the ground breaking ceremony.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nita Bhalla in Ethiopia
"It is China's largest joint venture in Africa"
See also:

02 Aug 02 | Business
11 Jul 02 | Africa
12 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
05 Mar 02 | Business
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