Nile Basin Report Disregards Ethiopia, Egypt Tension over Hydropower

By Merga Yonas
Dec. 08, 2012

The first State of the River Nile Basin 2012 report overlooked the competing water use conflicts and political risks stirring between Ethiopia and Egypt, mainly on the earlier project of the Great Renaissance Dam (GRD) construction over the Blue Nile River.

In October, the report that was published by the Nile Basin Initiative, the Uganda-based intergovernmental partnership of ten Nile River riparian countries, comes out with its first report, to be in print every three years.

In its section dealing with hydropower as an important energy sector, it also brought forward the constraints for the developments of the basin’s hydropower potential.

The report pinpointed the competing water use conflicts and its impact and political risk among the riparian countries of the Nile River. As the case in point, the report affirmed that multi-stake holder institutions need to be established to monitor and resolve water-use conflicts, such as that proposed for the Rusumo Project.

This project, initiated in the mid-1980s with three member states, including Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania, could not progress further due to the political situation in the region.

Ethiopia’s initiative of constructing the dam has brought Egypt and Sudan to the front where both have been claiming their historical right to use the river.

Reports show that the politics of water has been simmering between Egypt and Ethiopia, though officials of the two countries have been arguing against it.

Egyptian authorities have been blaming their officials and media for inflating news regarding the conflict. Ethiopia, on its side, has been echoing that the project is meant for mutual benefits and has also engaged to the extent of sending high profile individuals for public diplomacy.

Nevertheless, in the report, the historical account and ongoing squabbles between Ethiopia and Egypt over the construction of the GRD have been left-out. Ethiopia, which has a total potential of generating about 13, 947MW hydropower on the blue Nile River has been in a state of neither peace nor war with Egypt, a country that has been resisting the construction of the GRD.

The report stated that electricity production per capita in all Nile riparian countries except Egypt is very low. Hydro resources are abundant in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia, with possible combined potential of exceeding 100GW, the report stated.

A year back, the project of the GRD was publicized by the Ethiopian government and planned to be constructed over the river. The project, according to the Ethiopian government, will have a capacity of generating 5,250 MW and will create a reservoir with a surface area of 1,680km2 at full supply level.