1 December 2012

Ethiopia: Panel Pushes Study On Ethiopia's Nile Dam Amid Egypt Crises

Photo: Stelios Comninos
Sunset over a section of the Nile River (file photo).

Addis Ababa — The international panel of experts asked by Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to assess the impact of Ethiopia's controversial Nile dam project has continued its study despite fresh political turmoil in Cairo over a decree that gives Egypt's President sweeping new powers.

The panel of experts' also known as tripartite committee has held its fourth meeting in Addis Ababa this week to further review the impact of Ethiopia's grand renaissance dam.

During the meeting held from 26-28 November, the team has evaluated a document presented by Addis Ababa which details the benefit the project offers to down stream countries of Egypt and Sudan.

The tripartite committee has evaluated and studied the documents and the possible environmental impacts of the Dam as well as its socio-economic benefits according to Engineer Simegnew Bekele, Project Manager of Ethiopia's renaissance dam.

The document also provided details on the construction of the mega dam and other environmental studies made on site.

Following the meeting, the team of experts paid a visit to the construction site, which is located in Benishangul Gumuz region, some 30 kilometers from the border with Sudan.

After Ethiopia launched the construction of the Grand dam, Africa's biggest, on the Blue Nile River, Egypt has expressed fears that it will reduce the water flow significantly and has raised strong objections against the project and urged international donors to refrain from funding the mega dam.

During the Mubarek era, Egypt refused to negotiate a more equitable utilization of the Nile's water, maintaining that any dam construction would be seen as a "national security threat" and warned upstream countries from doing so.

This was been seen as overly aggressive stance by some upstream countries, particularly Ethiopia which is a source of around 85% of the Nile water.

According to a document published by the whistle-blowing organization Wikileaks, Egypt's Mubarak regime had agreed with the Sudanese government to an build air base in the western Darfur region to carry out airstrikes against Ethiopia's mega Dam. An allegation both Cairo and Khartoum denied.

However, the issue of Nile water now seems to be far from being a top priority for post-Mubarak leaders in Cairo, who are tied in political disputes over the powers of the President and a new constitution that is due to be voted on later this month.

Ethiopia which self-funds the $ 5 billion mega-dams project says construction is on track to complete the dam by 2015. Currently some 14 percent of the construction is accomplished.

The international panel of experts which was set to build trust and transparency among Nile riparian states is expected to reveal and submit its final findings on dam's impact to the governments of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, in May 2013.

The Grand Renaissance Dam has a power generating capacity of 6,000MW and when completed it will enable the Horn of Africa nation to export more power to its neighbours.

Currently Ethiopia is exporting hydro-power processed electricity to Djibouti and Sudan. It will soon start exports to Kenya, according to the state utility, Ethiopia Electric and Power Corporation (EEPCo).

Recently South Sudan has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ethiopian government to build a transmission line that will connect their power grids, enabling Africa's newest nation to import power.

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