30 August 2014

Ethiopia: Unrelenting Stance On GERD

Water affairs ministers of Ethiopia and Sudan rejected their Egyptian counterpart's latest proposal on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) while agreeing unanimously to hire an international consultant that will conduct a study on the effects of the dam on downstream countries.

The three water affairs ministers met on August 25 and 26 in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, where they held talks on how to implement the International Panel of Experts (IPoE) recommendations regarding the GERD.

"This time the meeting was conducted in a relatively open and transparent manner," Alemayehu Tegenu, Water Irrigation and Energy Minister of Ethiopia told journalists during a press conference held at the ministry's offices located off Haile Gebreselasse Street after his return from Khartoum on Thursday August 28.

According to him, the three ministers have reached an agreement to implement the IPoE's recommendations that advised the three countries to jointly conduct additional studies on the dam's Hydrology Simulation Model and a Transboundary Environmental and Socio-Economic Impact Assessment.

The Egyptian Irrigation and Water Minister Hossam El-Din Moghazy, however, was overzelous to convince the two ministers on a new proposal he presented during the meeting.

"He (the Egyptian minister) had tabled a term of reference and proposed it as a guideline for the international consultant to conduct the impacts of the dam as per the IPoE's recommendation. However, this was not acceptable to Ethiopia and Sudan," Alemayehu told journalists.

Consequently, the trio agreed in Khartoum to form a committee made up of four national experts from each of the three countries, according to Alemayehu.

The committee, which will have twelve members, is mandated to draw its internal working procedure, prepare a term of reference for the consultant and hire an international consultant, Alemayehu said.

The international consultant that is going to conduct the two impact studies of the dam will submit its findings only to the committee which then unanimously decide on the findings, Alemayehu explained.

"I don't want to look for the evils beforehand," the Ethiopian Minster said, asked about a possible solution if the committee was unable to reach a consensus.

However, insiders told The Reporter that the three ministers are authorized to resolve such disputes.

Before the meeting, Egyptian media outlets had been reporting that the existing technical specification of the dam will harm Egypt's water share and reported by quoting the Irrigation and Water Minister, Hossam El-Moghazi as he would urge Ethiopia to minimize the 150 meter height of the GERD and its reservoir without affecting its power generation capacity.

"If this point was raised it is simple, we couldn't reach an agreement," Alemayehu clarified his government's position.

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