Ethiopia: Harnessing the Waters of Abay - a Natural Duty Not Will

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (file photo).

Utilizing the waters of Abay (the Nile) fairly and equitably is not only a matter of will but also the natural obligation of Ethiopians, so argue prominent experts on the basis that 26 million people of the country lack access to drinking water and 64 percent of its population continue to live off the grid.

With the overall construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) exceeding 75 percent, experts say shying away from using the resource amounts to simply give away notable rights and responsibilities to third parties and allow injustice to prevail.

The experts also encourage citizens to continue supporting the construction of the GERD while stressing the need for investing more to realize other hydro and water projects on the Nile Basin that have already undergone studies.

Visiting Guba, Benishangul-Gumuz where the construction of the GERD is taking place this week along with Eritrean President Isias Afwerki, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Ph.D.) said: "Much more awaits us. Success is inevitable. But marked progress is key to finalize the dam."

"This year, as per of the second phase of the dam filling, GERD will impound trice of the water retained in the initial filling. Two turbines are now ready to commence initial power production this year."

Ethiopia should not only have the will to develop the Nile waters. Given its natural and historical ties to the River, it appears a natural obligation of the country to make use of the river, said Zerihun Abebe a speaking on a webinar discussion organized by Ethiopian Embassy in Brussels.

Most of Ethiopia's parts, particularly the eastern part, suffer from acute shortage of water and Nile basin covers 70 percent of the surface water resource of the country and 45 percent of the population live around the Nile basin.

The Nile basin also represents 70 percent of the country's irrigation potential. For this reason, it is a resource that could boost the economy and improve livelihood. On the flipside, refraining simply from using the River is to allow the perpetuation of unfair exploitation of the shared resources by other countries.

"What is unique about GERD is that the project is the pinnacle of Ethiopia's centuries-old resolve and commitment to harness its resources."

GERD's economic, historical and diplomatic values are of enormous. It is central to Ethiopia's economic drive and the rising energy demand, Zerihun argued adding that, "the historical contribution of the dam is also huge that our forefathers had been fighting for centuries in defense of their resources including the Nile."

The flagship project would also continue to be at the heart of the country's international and diplomatic relations as it undoes the years of unfair legal and historical injustices imposed by colonial masters. Egypt has been dragging its feet to delay the trilateral talks, according to him.

There is a push to connect Ethiopia with Kenya, Djibouti and South Sudan with power. And, GERD helps to speed up the process and link additional countries with energy. The power connectivity between Ethiopia and the downstream countries and other areas appear to be low mostly because of Cairo's reluctance. When completed, the project will help supply power not only to the region but beyond, he added.

However, though the dam carries significant benefits to the countries, it also has been the victim of Egypt's unprecedented yet futile false propaganda. "Yet we have achieved much but lost nothing so far in the negotiation," said Zerihun Abebe, as he emboldened that Ethiopians should shed the light on the positive contribution and the truth of the flagship projects.

For his part, Eng. Gedeon Asfaw, Ethiopian Tripartite National Committee Chair, on the same occasion, said that still 26 million people lack safe drinking water with 64 million people remaining without electricity.

"We should even build more hydro and water dams to connect people to powers and quench their thirst. The construction of the Dam has reached 75 percent and both the civil and mechanical works are progressing well."

Filling and operating the GERD as per of the schedule is also mandatory. Take practical measures to develop hydro dams and irrigation dams on the Nile basin.

"African Union (AU) led talks is the best platform for resolving the outstanding issues." Egypt's concerns are unscientific and unrealistic only directed at perpetuating its monopoly over the Nile.

One of the most contentious issues are drought management and climate change, but resolving these issues are natural phenomena and require the cooperation and the shared responsibility of the three countries.

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