Ethiopia, Egypt Set to Start Talks Over $4.3 Bln Dam Row (WSJ)

October 16th, 2013 Print Print Email Email

Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan will hold discussions next week over the impact of a new $4.3 billion hydro power plant along the river Nile, which Egypt fears will hurt water supply to its 84 million people.

“The meeting is scheduled to take place…on Oct. 22, 2013 between officials of the three countries,” the Ethiopian foreign ministry said in a statement. The meeting will be the first since experts submitted their recommendations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project more than three months ago.

Egypt fears the 6,000 megawatt plant is likely to hurt its water supply when it comes on-stream around 2017. Majority of the Egyptian population is centered near the Nile valley and the desert nation depends on the river for around 95% of its water.

In June, former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said that Egypt would “defend each drop of the Nile with our blood.” Egypt is fiercely opposed to the dam but years of political turmoil have weakened the nation’s influence in the region.

The experts’ report is yet to be made public but according to Fekahmed Negash, the director of boundary and trans-boundary rivers at Ethiopia’s Water, Irrigation and Energy ministry, the experts recommend further studies to analyze the impact of the dam on Egypt’s water supply. Ethiopia plans to take up to six years to fill the dam’s 74 billion cubic-meter reservoir but insists this won’t adversely affect the river’s downstream flow.

Addis Ababa, which is fully funding the project, has pledged to sell excess power to Egypt. Early this year, Ethiopia ratified the Nile River Cooperative Framework deal, challenging the colonial-era treaty that guarantees Egypt “natural and historic rights” over the Nile waters. Lower basin nations including Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda are all opposed to the treaty. In June, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said that Egypt shouldn’t continue to “hurt countries” in the Nile River basin by restricting power projects along the river. Uganda is developing several hydro power projects along the Nile.

  1. Nathan
    | #1

    The Pharaohs must come to term with reality: the prospect of maintaining a monopolistic use over the Nile waters is fading away gradually for two reasons. First, Egypt’s leverage to influence development projects on the Nile in downstream countries is deteriorating due to political turmoil in its own backyard. It takes years from now until Egypt cleans its backyard from the self inflicted wound by the military elites. Second, relative to the Pharaohs, black African countries downstream are increasingly enhancing their economic strength and the capacity to utilize and harness natural resources within their borders including water. Demographic pressure and growing economic activities would compel the downstream countries to fully exploit their water resources hitherto overlooked. It has become increasingly clear that downstream countries cannot feed their growing population with traditional farming methods on small holdings. Hence transformation of their agriculture is not only pivotal for attaining economic development but it is also a question of survival. And such transformation means investing on irrigation schemes, which in turn means, an aggressive utilization of surface and ground water resources. So it seems the case that instead of fighting a battle that they cannot win, the elites in Cairo should rethink about where electricity and wheat could be produced efficiently. That might involve restructuring their energy and agricultural sectors. Egypt may be better off by importing electricity and wheat from downstream countries instead of wasting billions on a potential military confrontation with Ethiopia.

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