Ethiopia has willingly decided to embark upon the road to sustainable development, adding renewable energies to the main pillars of the multi-year Plan for the Growth and Transformation of the country. Over the last few years, Ethiopia has succeeded in meeting most of the Millennium Development Objectives and today it is engaged in an even more important challenge: sustaining the new Sustainable Development Objectives launched by the UN and transforming the Country into a “carbon neutral” economy by 2025, becoming the energy hub of the Horn of Africa and so contributing to the geo-political stability of the entire area.
Salini Impregilo has always been an important partner for Ethiopia and is proud to have helped achieve these objectives. Through the hydroelectric projects already developed and currently under development in the Country, the Group is making a significant contribution to the development of Ethiopia.
Salini Impregilo meets the need to efficiently produce renewable energy using the Country's enormous water resources in line with the interests of the local stakeholders by developing innovative, challenging technical and design solutions. The Group's projects involve thousands of technicians and the top industry professionals from all over the world. These are responsible for designing and executing the works in full compliance with the recommendations for the environmental and social wellbeing of the areas approved by the local authorities responsible for the same. Additionally, Salini Impregilo also performs further studies with its partners (e.g. hydrological, on the safety of the works), with a view to identifying all possible risks and ensuring that any impacts are adequately mitigated or compensated.
And the Group also guarantees high standards of environmental protection during the execution phases, by carefully managing the raw materials and natural resources, identifying the measures capable of preventing and mitigating any impacts and – last but not least – developing cutting edge solutions for saving energy, recycling waste and protecting biodiversity.
Our sites implement an environmental management system certified in line with the ISO 14001 international standard, and are regularly subject to checks by many external organisations (auditors, authorities, certifying bodies, etc.).
Our projects are cutting edge engineering works and so regularly receive visits from institutional and professional delegations from all over the world. The doors of our projects are also open to the local communities, who regularly visit the sites to understand the progress of the works, the benefits deriving from the project in progress and how the social and environmental aspects of the same are managed. In 2015 alone, the projects carried out by the Group were the destination of hundreds of visits, involving thousands of guests from the neighbouring communities, other areas of the Country and abroad.
In Gibe III, every aspect of the construction site has been designed and developed with a view to minimising consumption, waste production and, in general, to ensure implementation of the most effective environmental protection measures.
For example, to reduce energy consumption, Salini Impregilo has designed and created an innovative energy recovery system associated with the system for laying concrete, which has enabled 3 million kWh of renewable energy to be produced in three years, saving 800,000 litres of diesel and preventing over 2000 tonnes of CO2 emissions from being released into the atmosphere.
The Group has also built closed circuit systems that enable large quantities of water to be recovered from the concrete systems. And in the field of waste recycling and sorting, the project has also recorded some very significant results, with approximately 70% of all the excavation waste reused for purposes linked to the above-mentioned project, so minimising the need to resort to sites for storing the materials.
Thanks to these solutions, in 2013 the Ethiopian Parliament named Gibe III the best project in the Country in terms of environmental protection.
Enormous amounts of energy are required to complete large infrastructural projects, mainly electricity for powering the production systems and auxiliary services (offices, workshops, accommodation for workers, clinics) and fuels for running the vehicles and site equipment. However, when the construction sites are located in remote areas not served by the electricity network, we need to rely on diesel generators that cause a higher level of emissions into the atmosphere, not to mention the higher costs and environmental impacts linked to the purchase and the transportation of diesel by road.
To overcome this problem, during the last few large projects currently developed by the Group (GERD and Gibe III), Salini Impregilo has paid particular attention to the phases for the planning and execution of the construction activities, agreeing with its partners that it would anticipate the construction of the lines of transmission between the new sites and the national electricity network. In this way, the Group has obtained two important results: powering its sites with renewable energy (and therefore with an impact close to zero) sourced from the Country's other hydroelectric systems, and accelerating the electrification process in the areas around the new sites, so creating instant benefits for the local communities. Over the last few years it has therefore been possible to save over 22 million litres of diesel, preventing approximately 58,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions from being released into the atmosphere.
Finally, the Group partially compensates for the remaining emissions produced by the site equipment by planting trees when restoring the environmental conditions of the sites. For example, the Gibe III site hosts a nursery in which autochthonous trees have been planted since the very early phases of the project. These will gradually be transplanted during the project.
The phases of filling in the basin of a dam can create dangers for the wildlife present in the valley: In particularly, there is the risk that the animals can remain trapped on the islands that form gradually as the water level rises.
At Gibe III, from the very early stages of the project, Salini Impregilo has constantly monitored the basin area with a view to identifying all the animal species present therein. Before the filling in activities began, a rescue team was set up, formed especially for the task and assisted by environmental experts and independent vets. This way, the team, composed also of volunteer Group employees, launched the "Noah's Ark" operation, identifying and cordoning off the areas that would be flooded, before carrying out preliminary rescue operations to bring the animals present to safety.
During the filling in phase, the rescue team used boats specifically created for the task and fitted with cages, to reach the islands that had formed in the basin and rescue the animals present. These operations lasted for several weeks, during which the rescue team also distributed food to the islands not yet involved in the rescue activities.