Quantifying the Economic Impact of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River Basin; Economic and Social Impacts of the Tennessee Valley Authority on Local Communities

Lam, Thomas, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Lakshmi, Venkataraman, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia
Rogers, Hannah, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

This portfolio contains two reports concerning the implications of hydroelectricity development to promote regional economic growth. The first report details the technical aspects from the implementation of the Grand Ethiopian Dam along Blue Nile River in Ethiopia. For this project, I worked alongside fellow students and faculty within the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment to examine the implications of altering water resources on the countries Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan resulting from the GERD. The construction of the GERD on the Blue Nile River has the potential to increase hydroelectricity production for Ethiopia, however it puts at risk the downstream countries of Egypt and Sudan, both of which are heavily dependent on the Nile River for water resources and agricultural production. Many of the current reservoirs within the Nile River Basin operate independently of each other, often serving the focus of benefiting localities, as there is no regional Nile water management between countries. For the project the group analyzed historical data related to water security, land use, agriculture, hydropower and economics to identify factors that may change from the implementation of the GERD. From this it was found the GERD will increase water stress for the downstream countries. Additionally, filling hydroelectric generation from 6- and 12- year filling regimes showed no difference in the value of electricity after a 12-year period. Questions still remain regarding the GERD will spark greater economic innovation and investment into the countries of the Nile River Basin.

In addition to my capstone project, I also conducted a sociotechnical thesis related to the impacts of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on local stakeholders displaced by hydroelectric projects. Local stakeholders are defined as residents who resided in the Tennessee Valley and were in the immediate geographic area of dam development and directly displaced by the TVA and its projects. Similar to the GERD, the TVA was enacted during the Great Depression by FDR to spark economic and regional development of the Tennessee Valley by establishing sources of hydroelectricity. To accomplish this, thousands were displaced impacting local stakeholders both financially and socially. Richard White’s Organic Machine method of analyzing stakeholders was invoked to better understand the impacts of displacement on local groups. The main focus of research was aimed at analyzing this impact for those who live in the Norris Dam Basin. After completing research, it was found large hydropower development projects are often built with the purpose of benefiting communities in large, but often ignore the social and economic repercussions on local stakeholders directly displaced by such projects.

After completing both projects, I enjoyed being able to see both the technical and social impacts related to hydroelectric development and having the ability to connect the pros and cons associated with these projects. By working on both projects simultaneously, I was able to apply knowledge that I learned from my STS thesis to group discussions for my capstone project as well. Another aspect that I thought was interesting was being able to find connections between the GERD and the TVA in terms of motives for development; even though these two projects are nearly 80 years apart. This shows that technical and social issues continue to exist through time.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Hydropower, Hydroelectricity, Organic Machine, Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
Technical Advisor: Venkataraman Lakshmi
STS Advisor: Hannah Rogers
Technical Team Members: Charles Bass, Matthew Fitzsimmons, Stuart Keith, Adam O'Neill

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