2 March 2018

Ethiopia: GERD - History in the Making

Photo: Wikipedia
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

With the unwavering support of the public, the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has now seen over 64 percent completions. The construction also paves the way for cooperation among the Nile Riparian States.

Such project and cooperation in the Nile Basin was long perceived impossible. And contemporary Ethiopians have once again pioneered in self-financing huge projects and drawing the riparian countries to a single table for their common cause. Past Ethiopian generation hand down the spirit of unity and territorial integrity to the current ones, while setting the examples to the people of Africa and the entire black community as it is possible to unshackle themselves from all forms of oppression.

In addition to the acute financial problem, any development using the waters of Nile had been deemed the source of confrontation. But, that sentiment has been utterly overturned. History is now in the making at Guba town in Benishangul Gumuz State.

At any given time, 10,000-15,000 workers and engineers, both local and expatriate, are being involved in the construction activities at GERD site--coping up the beating temperature.

The National Council for the Coordination of Public Participation on the Construction of GERD (Council) has been organizing a range of platforms to allow citizens put their lasting imprints on the Dam. Also, it paves the way for both Ethiopians, Ethiopian origin of foreign nationals and expatriate nationals to witness the Dam's progress first hand.

"Apart from making financial contributions to the project, more than 260,000 people visited the project since its launching; Council's Communication Directorate Director Hailu Abraham told The Ethiopian Herald.

Over 400 local and international media institutions as well as journalists had set their feet on the site, he said, adding that over 200 local investors will also witness the progress first hand in the coming days.

The time has now ticked at seven years since the commencement of the project.

"Various musical, art, sports [running and football] contests, bond selling week and other spectacular events are on the way to be held in connection to the 7th year GERD anniversary," he revealed.

Among the events include GERD Great Run, he pointed out. "Over 500,000 runners are expected to participate in the event."

So far, the active involvement of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia, both at home and abroad, have made significant contribution to the project, he indicated. "GERD Trophy and GERD Diaspora Bond are the predominant ways of public mobilization."

He indicated that more than 1.6 billion Birr was collected through GERD trophy during its tour in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and peoples' state.

Currently, the GERD Trophy is in Ethio-Somali state. Another symbol, GERD Torch, is in Tigray state rallying the people to boost their financial contribution.

The Council will facilitate more GERD visit programs to promote public's' participation. To him, the Council has understood as people's involvement increases when they visit the Dam's site.

It is not only the physical progress of the Dam which is awe-inspiring to visitor, the youths' determination in a beating tropical climate leave enduring memory on them.

In addition to this, the public is supporting the Dam's construction in kind.

The Diaspora community as well has hand in the Dam's construction. "Over 40 million Birr have been collected from the Diaspora community," Hailu said.

The Dam's construction is not the only task of Ethiopians. Side by side the construction, the people as a whole and farmers in particular have intensified environmental protection works.

Transplanting seedlings in the Abbay basin, among other places, during rainy season and ensuring the seedlings' survival and terracing works during the dry season have become common tasks among the people.

The efforts will eventually tackle sedimentation both at GERD and at other downstream country's dams.

The tasks carried out in this regard could be estimated to worth in millions of USD as to the information of the Council.

More than 10.3 billion Birr has been generated from the public through various public mobilization mechanisms.

When coming to full operation, GERD will interconnect the Horn of Africa and beyond through power. This is not a mere claim, Ethiopia's hydro-power has been benefiting Djibouti, and Sudan while a high tension power transmission cable's construction is under way to supply Kenya with hydro-power.

To the astonishment of anyone, the project becomes a centerpiece of cooperation in the Nile Basin. Unlike previous confrontations, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have joined hands and made encouraging move that sets the way for mutual benefits.

The technical ministerial level discussions, Nile Basin Leaders deliberations, among others, could be cited here.

Since GERD inception, the cooperation has garnered new mementum. The hard negotiated River Nile Cooperative Framework of Agreement has been ratiffied by seven signatories. The parliaments of three of the signatories -Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania--have already passed the document.

But, unless three more countries follow suit and deposit the ratifying instrument with the African Union, the Framework cannot come to effect. It goes without saying that establishing a legal framework and common institution is useful to all riparian countries.

As friends and co-riparian countries, and having negotiated for over ten years, the signatory countries can encourage one another to move forward on the ratification of CFA instrument. Indeed they can update one another on the progress of ratification in their respective countries.

Most riparian countries have committed themselves in signing the CFA to benefit the 400 million people living in the basin system through nullifying the old-fashioned water allocation system which was based on principle of absolute territorial integrity, where downstream countries discouraged any upstream developmental feats which use the waters of the Nile.

This commitment materializes when Burundi, Kenya and Uganda complete the ratification procedure by effecting the agreed political commitment.

The document was negotiated and agreed upon to establish trust, promote greater cooperation and enhance sustainable use of the Nile waters within each country as well as among the countries in such a way that the utilization of the water resources is in keeping with the principles and procedures provided in the agreement.

In using the waters, basin states are required: to consider the social and economic needs of parties (CFA, Art.4 (2)b), and the population dependent on the water resources in each basin state-- as well as effects of uses or use of the water resources in one Basin State on other Basin state (CFA, Art.4 (2)d).

Besides, Article 4(4) has it that the determination of reasonable and equitable use would be considered together (by signatory parties), while parties would observe the rules and regulations the Commission sets.

As Non-cooperation harms downstream countries more than it does to upper ones, it is high time for Egyptians to expediate cooperation than ever before.

Ethiopia and Ethiopians are on the right track of development. And this development is a matter of survival. Hence, the move would not, by any means, be backpedaled. This move is, of course, witout posing significant harm to the basin states, but with intentions to bring about significant benefits to them--as has been scientifically proven.

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