VR In The Classroom – Ethiopian Dam Case Study


ScreenHunter_01 Mar. 01 15.16

A new classroom resource from the BBC has emerged recently – allowing students to study the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia in virtual reality.

By clicking on the link below on a mobile device and popping it into a VR headset, it is possible to join BBC’s Africa correspondent Alastair Leithead as he travels from the source of the Blue Nile to the Mediterranean Sea – through Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. The journey flies high above the river’s waterfalls and also inspects the Grand Renaissance Dam in detail.

This 360° video is a version of the first VR documentary series from BBC News – hopefully, there will soon be many more to use in the geography classroom.



Photo: welkait.com

Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam (formerly known as the Millennium Dam and sometimes known as the Hidase Dam) is the largest hydro-electric project in Africa (as well as the 7th largest in the world) – but it has caused considerable discord with some of its neighbours.

This scheme will provide an excellent case study asking if water can be ‘owned’ by different countries, and also how water can be shared. There will need to be a good deal of future cooperation between the Nile basin stakeholders if a major ‘water conflict’ is to be avoided in this area.


Photo: zerohedge.com

The dam stands 170 metres tall, and is 1.1 miles wide on the Blue Nile, about 9 miles east of the border with Sudan – while the reservoir created behind it will be able to hold more than the volume of the entire Blue Nile itself. In August of last year, it stood at 60% complete, and will eventually produce 6,000 MW of electricity, which is more than double the current total output of the country.

But what could be life-changing for Ethiopia, could create major problems for Egypt – which has for millennia seen the Nile as a vital lifeline. With a growing population and increasing demands from agriculture, Egypt is worried the new dam will leave them high and dry. Egypt’s strong claims on the river have soured relations with the eight other countries that share the Nile basin.

Ethiopia claims that the Nile’s waters will only be used to generate electricity, and then allowed to continue to flow through the river as before, but Egypt and some of the other basin countries fear that stored water will be used for irrigation, hence reducing downstream supply. Egypt is especially concerned about the potential effects on the Aswan High Dam – its own hydro-electricity scheme. There is also a major concern that flow will be reduced during the seven years or so that it will take for the reservoir behind the dam to fill.

Sudan initially shared Egypt’s fears, but has more recently come to realise that Ethiopia’s new Dam will bring many benefits to the country – including cheap electricity, fresh water for homes, and water for irrigation.

For more information click on the links below:

Grand Renaissance Dam web site:

Article from the ‘Economist’:

BBC article:


About devongeography

Head of Geography and Assistant Vice Principal at South Molton Community College, North Devon. Exeter Chiefs supporter!
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