Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia Reach Agreement on Grand Renaissance Dam
By admin March 11, 2015


Early last Friday, the foreign ministries of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia announced that they had tentatively reached an agreement on the sharing of the Nile water resources, and the use of Ethiopia’s controversial Grand Renaissance Dam, after negotiations that had begun on Tuesday of the same week.  Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti explained that the three countries had agreed on “the principles” of the use of this dam and of the eastern Nile river basin.  Now, the principles must be submitted to the three relevant heads of state for approval.

The Grand Renaissance Dam is located along the Blue Nile in the Benishangul-Gumuz region in western Ethiopia, which borders Sudan.  The dam has been under construction since 2011, and is expected to open in 2017.  Much of its appeal comes from Ethiopia’s desire for hydropower production.  During peak times, the dam is expected to produce up to 6,000 megawatts of electricity, which would make it the largest hydroelectric producer in Africa.  Since only one third of Ethiopians currently have access to electricity, this is expected to lead to significant improvement in living standards.  Ethiopia also hopes that the dam will turn it into a major electricity exporter to neighboring countries.

However, some of these countries, particularly Egypt, reacted with alarm to the plans for the Grand Renaissance Dam.  The Egyptian economy and population depend heavily on the flow of the Nile; between its agricultural needs and its growing population, Egypt is expected to need an additional 21 billion cubic meters of water per year by 2050 (to be added to its current need of 55 billion cubic meters), and has been very concerned that the dam could reduce the flow of water coming through the Nile precisely as these needs are increasing.  Egypt has historically considered its rights to the Nile to be guaranteed by two treaties from 1929 and 1959, which guarantee it 87 percent of the river’s flow, but in 2010, Ethiopia and three more African countries (Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania) signed an agreement in 2010 to seek more water for their own needs, which they claimed superseded these earlier treaties.  However, Ethiopia has repeatedly sought to include Egypt and Sudan in the process, and to reassure them that the dam will not affect their water flows.  In 2012, the three countries formed a panel of experts (six drawn from their respective governments and four international experts) for environmental impact assessment, but Egypt and Ethiopia disagreed over their interpretations of the panel’s report, and the argument continued.

Last week’s argument was the first major breakthrough in the negotiation process, though it has yet to be ratified by the Egyptian, Sudanese, and Ethiopian governments.  The ministers emphasized that there was “complete consent,” but have not revealed any of the details of the agreement.  If this does lead to a lasting agreement and the confrontation is finally put to rest, the dam could be a major step forward for the development not only of Ethiopia, but the East African region as a whole.

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Thanks for sharing !

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