A general view of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam, as it undergoes construction, is seen during a media tour along the river Nile in Benishangul Gumuz Region, Guba Woreda, in Ethiopia March 31, 2015. Picture taken March 31, 2015 - REUTER/Tiksa Negeri A general view of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam, as it undergoes construction, is seen during a media tour along the river Nile in Benishangul Gumuz Region, Guba Woreda, in Ethiopia March 31, 2015. Picture taken March 31, 2015 - REUTER/Tiksa Negeri

Ethiopia, Sudan crippled studies on Ethiopian dam: Minister

Thu, Dec. 21, 2017
CAIRO – 21 December 2017: Egypt did not halt technical studies on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), unlike some rumors circulated by media, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Aty told African, Arab, and foreign ambassadors in a meeting on Thursday.

Ethiopia and Sudan not responding to Egypt’s calls

The minister presented an overview of the latest updates on negotiations over the dam. He clarified that Egypt approved the report prepared by PRL Consulting on the guidelines that should be followed when conducting studies on the effects of the dam.

However, Ethiopia and Sudan reject the report, even though it depended on the documents approved by the three countries and presented to the consulting companies. This has recently crippled the continuation of the studies.

Abdel Aty affirmed that, since May, Egypt has frequently called for holding meetings on the ministerial-level to reach a solution over the impediment in technical studies, but its demands were turned down by Ethiopia and Sudan, causing a delay in the studies for a long time.

The minister stressed that the Ethiopian and Sudanese stances on the issue in all previous meetings – up until the last meeting of the Tripartite National Committee on Renaissance Dam (TNCRD) hosted in Cairo on November 11-12 – contradicted all frameworks agreed upon at the beginning. Both countries also declined all propositions made by Egypt addressing their concerns.

Points of disagreement

Abdel Aty clarified that one of the main disagreements during negotiations is that Ethiopia and Sudan insist on not abiding by the documents endorsed by the three countries to be used in studies conducted by the consulting company.

The documents indicate that the base that must be used for determining the effects and possible damages of the dam is the current status of the eastern Nile Basin without the presence of the dam. However, Ethiopia wants the dam to be included, which goes against logic, against what is done in studies on dams with transborder effects and against the contracts.

On the other hand, Sudan wants to include “future usages” of the dam when measuring the current status of the basin. It also refused Egypt’s proposition of depending on the water shares identified in the 1959 Agreement.

Sudan and Ethiopia also rejected an Egyptian proposition of not using data submitted to conduct the studies in another context, so that such data would not result in changing the current legal status of any party except for the execution of the studies and the Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries in 2015.

The minister expressed his surprise at the Ethiopian and Sudanese rejection of the proposition that would eliminate their concerns, as these data would not be used against Sudan in the TNCRD. The data prove that Sudan only uses its water shares as determined in the 1959 Agreement guaranteeing that all three countries would not change their status over the agreement, which is a concern to Ethiopia.

Abdel Aty added that Sudan and Ethiopia insist that the data used in the studies should not entail any duties or rights for involved parties. They also insist that parties do not have to abide by the results of the studies on the dam’s effects, which abolishes the purpose of conducting such studies in the first place.

Ethiopia wants to give directions to the consulting company, which contradicts with the content of the contract on crucial aspects to include in the studies. For instance, Ethiopia wants the consulting company to disregard the dam’s effect on soil salinity and the subsequent economic, social and environmental effects, so that the dam would appear to not have any effect on Egypt, the minister said.

Abdel Aty clarified that Egypt would be affected the most by the dam established on the Blue Nile, as it is the last downstream country and because constructions are taking place without prior agreement on how the dam will be operated and filled based on clear studies explaining its effects.

Finishing the studies is in Egypt’s interest

This is why Egypt has been eager throughout the past seven years – since the Ethiopian unilateral measures to start constructing the dam – to accelerate the execution of the studies; so it is not logical that it would cripple or slow down the studies, unlike the allegations propagated, the minister asserted, adding that the suspension of the studies is in the interest of the party imposing a status quo on other parties.

Abdel Aty expressed his concern that Ethiopia has a tendency to push for starting the filling of the dam’s reservoir before the studies are finished and regardless of their results.

“However, Egypt renews its call for Ethiopia and Sudan to accept its propositions regarding their concerns and for Ethiopia to act professionally by not filling the reservoir until an agreement is reached based on the final report on the studies’ results, in accordance with the Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries in 2015,” the minister concluded.

Development of the issue

Construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam started on April 2, 2011 at a cost of $4.8 billion. It was built by the Italian construction and engineering company Salini Impergilo headquartered in Milan. The dam is located on the Blue Nile with a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters and is expected to generate up to 6,000 megawatts of power.

Since May 2011, Cairo has voiced its concerns over how the dam can reduce the country’s annual share of more than 56 billion cubic meters of Nile water. Egypt’s average water per-capita is expected to drop from 663 cubic meters per year to 582 cubic meters by 2025, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) in 2014. Addis Ababa, however, claimed that the dam is necessary for its development and that it will not harm downstream countries.

Meanwhile, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi signed a tripartite joint cooperation agreement in Khartoum on March 23, 2015 between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. In December 2015, Sisi addressed the public, saying that there is no reason to worry about the dam and that the matter would be resolved. The three countries held 14 rounds of consultation on resolving the disputes over the Renaissance Dam. However, these rounds failed to solve the dispute.

Former Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hossam el-Moughazi stated in November 2015 that the dam’s construction is going faster than the tripartite talks. On October 1, The Telegraph reported that Ethiopia is finalizing the construction of the dam and will then start filling its reservoir.
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