ethiopiantimes

April 21, 2014

Egypt to ‘escalate’ Ethiopian dam dispute

While construction of Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam continues apace, downstream neighbour Egypt is crying foul.

In the three years since construction began on the 1.8km Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam across the Blue Nile River, Egypt and Ethiopia have been engaged in a war of words over its potential impacts.

Ethiopia believes the massive dam will herald an era of prosperity, spurring growth and attracting foreign currency with the export of power to neighbouring countries. But Egypt has raised concerns about the downstream effects, as the Blue Nile supplies the Nile with about 85 percent of its water.

Both sides say they seek a negotiated solution, but they remain at loggerheads, with negotiations stalled. Ethiopia insists the dispute must be resolved through negotiations between the two parties, with Mahamoud Dirir, the ambassador to Egypt, noting in a statement last month that “there are only two… countries in the entire world which are well-placed to mediate between Egypt and Ethiopia.”


Egypt, meanwhile, is quietly lobbying the international community for support against what it says is a violation of international law, diplomatic sources confirmed to Al Jazeera.

“Egypt plans to take actions to escalate the situation against Ethiopia,” said a western diplomat in Cairo, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “But the exact implications of these actions [are] still unclear.”

Egypt’s main concern is water security, as the country faces a future of increasing scarcity. Nearly all of Egypt’s water comes from the Nile, and its population of 83 million is growing at nearly two percent annually.

Already, water shortages cause problems. The most common response is the reuse of wastewater in agriculture, often untreated. The 2005 UNDP Human Development Report for Egypt stated that “poor water quality affects both health and land productivity with damage costs estimated to have reached LE 5.35 billion [$7.7m] or 1.8 percent of GDP.”

Doaa Ezzat Zaki al-Agha, a water management specialist conducting research in the Nile delta, said five members of her family died from liver disease, which she believes resulted from poor drinking water. “They have no other choices, only the Nile water,” she said.

Mohamed Abdel Wahab, a farmer from a small village of 300 families near the delta city of Alexandria, an area that regularly experiences water shortages, believes the government should be “more strict with Egypt’s sovereign right to water” – and his view reflects that of many Egyptians. Any threat to the country’s water supply is treated as an existential threat. Accordingly, Egypt has long opposed upstream development projects on the Nile. In the past this prevented Ethiopia from receiving money from international organisations like the World Bank, which has a “no objection” rule for projects it funds. Now, Ethiopia is funding the $4.8bn project itself.

Tensions peaked in May 2013 when Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile. Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi told a national conference: “We will defend each drop of Nile water with our blood if necessary.”

Today, statements from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry are more conciliatory, with spokesperson Badr Abdelatty saying he hoped the situation could be resolved through “cooperation”. A recent statement by Abdelatty on the State Information Service website, however, adds: “The Ethiopian dam is an issue that can bear no compromises.”

The last negotiations in Addis Ababa in February stalled over whether international experts should be included in a technical committee being formed to implement the recommendations of a May 2013 report on the dam. Written by an international panel of experts (IPOE), the report proposed more extensive assessment of the dam’s potential transboundary environmental and social impacts. “We must have an international member on the committee and the Ethiopians refused this,” said Khaled Wasif, a spokesperson for the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: