- Photo Essay December 17, 2006 – Koka Dam & the Awash Valley

Series on the Great Ethiopian Rift Valley - Sponsored by Feedelix Wireless.

Koka Dam and Awash Valley

Just a few years ago, the talk in this city of Addis Ababa, among many professionals – particularly among engineers – was this document prepared by one Ato Tadesse H/Selassie. Ato Tadesse, as one of the founders of the successful company, Berta Construction had proposed three engineering projects that will solve the food security problem in Ethiopia for once and all. The details do require that one knows the geography and geology of Ethiopia – a task that can not be underestimated. Among his three proposals, one stands out as more intriguing and nearer to the heart of most of us on the MediaET photo essay team.

The good engineer has suggested that the Awash valley be diverted to Lake Zway after flowing through the gentle plains at the foot hills of the Zuqwalla mountain. The idea is that as Awash flows through this plain, it will deposit the large amount of silt and sediment it carries on this agricultural-friendly area. To that, add the more than the additional 1 billion cubic meter of water that will be available for irrigation from Lake Zway. This, of course, required abandoning Lake Koka and turn it into an agricultural area. The good engineer’s proposals caught many people’s imaginations and it turns out that he was invited to meet the Prime Minister.

Ato Tadesse prepared a very emotional speech and pleaded with the man to give the idea a serious consideration. He talked of great past Ethiopian leaders and how Heaven had given them unique opportunities to leave their marks in the country’s history and went on to remind the Prime Minister that it was his ticket to perpetual greatness. We will never know what the TPLF man was actually thinking as the engineer was pitching his idea, but it is plausible to suggest that being remembered as Ethiopia’s savior could be the last thing in the minds of Ato Meles. For a man who sold our access to the Sea, another water project in the country will never be a top priority. For all we know, the man in the palace has never even seen the Awash river if our resources are to be trusted.

At any rate, as we prepared for our recent trip to the Rift Valley, our engineer friends suggested that we visit the Koka Plains and the area at the foothills of Mount Zuqwalla. The summer rains were phenomenal this year and we were vividly reminded that the Awash river could indeed be the one to bring us salvation.

As the photos show, every year, Awash overflows its banks and floods the plains. Only three years ago, many had given up hope on the Koka dam which is Awash’s current diversion as it dried up exposing boulders which had not seen the light of day for decades. But this year, the gates of Koka Dam had to be opened to let off hundreds of thousands of cubic meter of water. Trout and Tilapia fish were abundant. The roadside markets on the Addis – Moyale road were full of papayas, oranges, tomatoes, corn, and bananas. The fertile land which remains under-utilized throughout the year was beaming with life as it had done for millions of years.

As we bought a whole basket of papaya for three birr, we could not help but be reminded that it was not a coincidence that Melka Kunture, one of the cites of early human origins was only 40 kilometers away or so towards the Zuqwalla mountains and the source of the Awash river.



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