Construction of Ethiopia’s controversial Grand Renaissance Dam on Nile River will go ahead whatever the findings of an environmental impact report agreed with Egypt and Sudan, the government said Wednesday.
“This study cannot affect construction of the dam. Construction of the dam will continue,” Mutuma Mikasa, minister for water, irrigation and electricity, told a news conference.
He spoke after returning from a meeting in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, where two French engineering firms signed a contract to conduct an environmental impact study in the presence of top diplomats from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.
Construction of the huge dam on the Blue Nile, which began in 2012 and is to be completed in 2017, has poisoned relations between Ethiopia and Egypt.
When completed, it will be Africa’s largest dam.
Egypt, which is almost totally reliant on the Nile for agriculture and drinking water, fears the dam will hit its supplies.
It has maintained its “historic rights” to the Nile, which it says are guaranteed by treaties from 1929 and 1959 which grant it 87 percent of the river’s flow, as well as the power to veto upstream projects.
French firms Artelia and BRL were chosen late last year to carry out technical studies on the project that BRL said would begin in two months and take 11 months to complete.
“One of the points the study will answer is about the filling of the dam… This study is about restoring confidence between the three countries,” the Ethiopian minister said.
The dam is designed to feed a hydroelectric project that would produce 6,000 megawatts of power — tantamount to six nuclear-powered plants.
“This power is not only for local consumption, but also for export. We are constructing interconnection to Kenya and from Kenya to Tanzania,” Mikasa said, referring to the linking-up of electrical utilities across the region.
“We are working with Djibouti, Sudan, and others. This creates regional peace and stability.”
The Blue and the White Nile rivers converge in Khartoum and from there run north into Egypt as the Nile.
At Tuesday’s meeting in the Sudanese capital, water ministers from the three countries said they were optimistic about the project.
“We are keen to have everyone satisfied with what we are doing… we are for regional integration and prosperity,” said Mohamed Abdel Aati, Egypt’s water resources minister.
His Ethiopian counterpart Matoma Makisa said the resources of the Nile should benefit all three countries.
“We need to make sure that the outcome of these studies will strengthen our cooperation and ensure that the three countries benefit from the dam,” he said.
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia Sign Dam Impact Studies
By Aswat Masria,
The technical teams of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia signed the final the contracts for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) technical studies on Tuesday in Khartoum.
The three states have agreed that the French consultancy firms BRL and Artelia will carry out the studies on the impact that the GERD will have on the flow of the Nile, while the British law firm Corbett will overlook the legal affairs of the process.
The water and irrigation ministers of the three countries also attended the signing ceremony. The groups signed five copies of contacts, 200 pages each, the state-owned MENA news agency said.
Egypt’s Irrigation Minister, Mohamed Abdel-Aty, called the ceremony “historic,” MENA reported.
In December 2015 tripartite talks, the three groups signed the “Khartoum Document,” which stipulated a mechanism for resolving GERD related issues, and set a time frame of eight months to a year to complete the technical studies. Sudan’s foreign minister had previously said the studies would begin in February.
The trio are to split the costs of the studies equally among them, according to the Ethiopian foreign ministry.
Last month, Egyptian Minister of Water and Irrigation Hossam Moghazi said one study will determine the effects of the dam on the water reaching Egypt and Sudan, as well as on the effects on the electricity outputs of already existing dams. Both Egypt’s Aswan High Dam and Sudan’s Merowe Dam are hydroelectric projects.
The second study will identify the effects of the environmental, economic and social effects of the dam on Egypt and Sudan, Moghazi added.
For decades, Egypt has been receiving 55 billion cubic meters of the Nile river’s water annually, the largest share, as per agreements signed in the past century in the absence of Ethiopia, whose Blue Nile tributary supplies most of the water.
Once an agricultural state, Egypt relies on the Nile river as its main source of water but Ethiopia believes it is entitled to using the water for development, by creating electricity using the dam. The two countries have reiterated multiple times that they will not harm each other’s interests, which seem to conflict.