Ethiopia Diverts Nile for Huge $4.7 Billion Hydro Dam (Video)
By Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA, May 28, 2013 – (Reuters) – Ethiopia began diverting a stretch of the Nile on Tuesday to make way for a $4.7 billion hydroelectric dam that is worrying downstream countries dependent on the world’s longest river for water.
The Horn of Africa country has laid out plans to invest more than $12 billion in harnessing the rivers that run through its rugged highlands, to become Africa’s leading power exporter.
Centrepiece to the plan is the Grand Renaissance Dam being built in the Benishangul-Gumuz region bordering Sudan. Now 21 percent complete, it will eventually have a 6,000 megawatt capacity, the government says, equivalent to six nuclear power plants.
“The dam is being built in the middle of the river so you can’t carry out construction work while the river flowed,” said Mihret Debebe, chief executive officer of the state-run Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, at a ceremony at the site.
“This now enables us to carry out civil engineering work without difficulties. The aim is to divert the river by a few metres and then allow it to flow on its natural course.”
Ethiopia’s ambitions have heightened concerns in Egypt over fears the projects may reduce the river’s flow. Addis Ababa has long complained that Cairo was pressuring donor countries and international lenders to withhold funding.
Ethiopia’s energy minister moved to dispel fears over the dam’s impact.
“The dam’s construction benefits riparian countries, showcases fair and equitable use of the river’s flow and does not cause any harm on any country,” Alemayehu Tegenu said in a speech.
Mohamed Bahaa El-Din, Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, said Cairo was not opposed to Ethiopia’s development projects as long as they did not harm downstream countries.
“Crises in the distribution and management of water faced in Egypt these days and the complaints of farmers from a lack of water confirms that we cannot let go of a single drop of water from the quantity that comes to us from the Upper Nile,” he said.
A panel of experts from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan is set to announce its findings on the impact of the Ethiopian dam on the Nile’s flow in the next two weeks. (Additional reporting by Shaimaa Fayed in Cairo; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
Ethiopia: Ethiopia diverts flow of Blue Nile : ETV Reports
Egypt knew of planned Blue Nile diversion in advance
Cairo knew of planned Blue Nile diversion in advance: Govt source
Egyptian government source says Cairo was notified beforehand about Ethiopian plan to redirect course of Blue Nile – the source of most of Egypt’s Nile water
By Dina Ezzat
Cairo was notified in advance about the diversion of the Blue Nile before the move was officially announced by Ethiopia late Monday evening, an informed government official told Ahram Online.
“We had already known this; we were notified and the president knew,” he said.
Ethiopia on Tuesday began diverting the course of the Blue Nile, one of the Nile River’s two major tributaries, as part of a project to build a new dam.
The move, called “historic” by Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon, is likely to anger downstream Egypt and Sudan, both of which fear the move will negatively affect their annual quotas on Nile water.
Ethiopia’s ‘Renaissance Dam’ is one of four dams planned for construction along the Blue Nile, which provides Egypt with the lion’s share of its annual 55 billion cubic metres of Nile water.
On Monday, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gebre-Christos said the dam, which is currently under construction and will be able to store some 84 million cubic metres of Nile water, would be used exclusively for power generation and would not reduce Egypt’s share of Nile water.
The Egyptian government source said that, during President Mohamed Morsi’s visit to Addis Ababa – which ended Monday evening only hours before the announcement – there had been unsuccessful attempts to convince the Ethiopian side to delay the move.
“There were attempts [to persuade Ethiopia to postpone the move] through several diplomatic channels, both direct and indirect, and during the president’s talks with senior Ethiopian officials,” the source said.
“President Morsi raised the matter, but it was clear Ethiopia is determined to go ahead.”
The source added that Addis Ababa was offering “reassurances” that it would be “sensitive” to Egyptian concerns and would “try to accommodate” Cairo’s demand that it fill the planned dam’s reservoir only gradually, so as to ensure that the effect on Egypt’s annual share of Nile water would not be too abrupt.
The Ethiopian move to redirect the course of the Blue Nile is perceived by Cairo as an indication of Addis Ababa’s determination to follow through with its plans, despite Egypt’s objections that such plans violate international agreements that put Egypt’s annual share of Nile water at 55 billion cubic metres.
Addis Ababa has repeatedly shrugged off these agreements, asserting that they deny all Nile Basin states – apart from Egypt and Sudan – any serious share of river water.
Since 1902, there have been over ten agreements regulating the distribution of Nile water, including a 1959 agreement that specified Egypt’s exact share.
Most of these agreements stipulate that no dams or other irrigation projects should be built on the Nile without the prior notification of all Nile Basin states.
It is a precondition consistent with international law and with regulations adopted by the basin states of other rivers.
In 1999, Egypt agreed to join the other Nile Basin countries in a negotiation process specifically aimed at addressing the demands of the upstream countries.
During the process, Egypt issued two recommendations: firstly, to reduce water wastage, currently estimated at millions of cubic metres (some studies indicate that total wastage is more than Egypt’s entire annual share); and, secondly, to streamline usage of upstream water resources, including rainwater.
In 2010, both Egypt and Sudan (before the latter was split in two) suspended their participation in the talks due to a failure to define the terms of an agreement governing the construction of irrigation projects on the Nile.
The fate of this process remains in limbo, however, with both Cairo and Khartoum insisting on the full consensus of all basin countries before any dams can be built on the river.
The dispute over Nile water began in 2009 with demands made by upstream states, including Ethiopia, to reduce Egypt’s share in line with a new water-sharing treaty already signed by most upstream states.
Egypt is already suffering a water shortage and there are genuine concerns that Ethiopia’s planned Renaissance Dam would aggravate an existing problem that has until now been poorly attended to.
According to Egypt’s National Planning Institute, the country will likely need an additional 21 billion cubic metres of water per year by 2050 – on top of its current 55-billion-metre quota – to meet the water needs of a projected population of 150 million.
A source from the UN Development Programme suggested that Egypt’s annual loss of water – due to outdated irrigation systems and poor sewage maintenance – currently stood at some 10 percent of its official annual share.
“The fact that Egyptian authorities have turned a blind eye to the loss of fertile land is an added problem, as this means that Egypt would need much more water to help with desert land reclamation,” the source said.
Egypt’s concerns go beyond its share of Nile water.
A source close to the three-way consultation mechanism bringing together Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to discuss “technical aspects and influences” of Ethiopia’s planned Renaissance Dam speaks of “safety concerns” as well.
“I’m not saying the Renaissance Dam will collapse shortly after its construction, but I’m saying there are concerns that – in a few years – it could develop cracks,” he said.
The three-way consultation, which has been ongoing for over a year, began its sixth session in Addis Ababa two days ago.
It should issue a comprehensive report on the issue by the end of this month or early next month.
Egypt summons Ethiopian ambassador over Blue Nile move
May 29, 2013
Foreign ministry summons Ethiopian ambassador to express Egypt’s displeasure with Addis Ababa’s recent move to divert course of Blue Nile within context of dam construction project
Egypt’s foreign ministry on Wednesday summoned Ethiopian Ambassador Mahmoud Dardir to express its displeasure with Ethiopia’s construction of a major dam on the Blue Nile.
Head of the ministry’s African affairs committee, Ambassador Ali Hefny, along with other diplomats, met with Dardir Wednesday to convey Egypt’s unhappiness with the move.
Egyptian diplomats further criticised Ethiopia for going ahead with the project without taking into account the recommendations of a technical committee – tasked with studying the issue – consisting of ten specialists, including representatives of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
In a Tuesday interview with Ahram Online, Egyptian ambassador to Ethiopia Mohamed Idris stated that Egypt was pursuing a “win-win scenario in which the interests of both sides can be served and accommodated.”
Idris added: “We’re expecting Ethiopian officials to make good on their earlier promise to act in a way that would not harm Egyptian interests.”
A report on the possible impact of Ethiopia’s ‘Renaissance Dam’ is expected to be issued later this week by the committee of specialists.
Sources close to the committee say the report will include concerns over the potential impact of the dam on Egypt and Sudan.
It is also expected to refer to worries that cracks could develop in the dam within a few years, eventually leading to serious flooding.
Ethiopia on Tuesday began diverting the course of the Blue Nile, one of the Nile River’s two major tributaries, as part of its project to build a series of new dams for electricity production.
The move, called “historic” by Ethiopian government spokesperson Bereket Simon, has prompted criticism from downstream Egypt and Sudan, since the step could negatively affect both countries’ water quotas.
The Blue Nile provides Egypt with the lion’s share of its annual 55 billion cubic metres of river water.
According to the state-run National Planning Institute, Egypt will need an additional 21 billion cubic metres of water per year by 2050 – on top of its current quota of 55 billion metres – to meet the needs of a projected population of 150 million.
The late PM Meles Zenawi has predicted the politics of Egypt a while ago, and has explained all of the details in the video below:
Below is the Amharic translation of the late PM Meles Zenawi’s interview with Egypt TV: