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  • GERD is going according to plan

    GERD is going according to plan

    Despite Egypt’s efforts towards slowing down or halting the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD,) the project is going according to plan and is scheduled to be completed in June 2017, the Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Alemayehu Tegenu, told participants of the International Conference on the Nile, held on May 2nd at the Radisson Blu.

    The conference, organized by the Ethiopian Lawyers’ Association and its sponsors, Teshome Gebremariam Bokan Law Office, and Kenyan law firms Anjarwalla & Khanna and JMiles & Co. discussed the legal frameworks in the water, irrigation, energy and infrastructure sectors; the challenges faced; dispute resolution mechanisms in the context of the GERD project and the way forward for Ethiopia.

    Distinguished Ethiopian lawyers including Teshome Gebremariam, Wondimagegnehu Gebreselassie, President of the Ethiopian Lawyers’ Association, Emiru Tamrat, Dereje Zeleke (LLD), Tamiru Wondimagegne, Sileshi Ketsela, and Kumlachew Dagna condemned Egypt’s stagnant negotiation strategies and urged the Ethiopian government not to be soft-handed towards Egypt. Alemayehu and the veteran diplomat Fisseha Yimer (Amb.,) member of the National Panel of Experts on the GERD, shared the frustrations of the experts and promised that Ethiopia wouldn’t fall into the trap of endless negotiations with Egypt.

    Fisseha quoted the State Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Birhane Gebrekirstos (Amb.,) saying ‘let alone the Ethiopian government, even God will not allow the GERD to be halted’ to the foreign delegation visiting Ethiopia last week. Recognizing the fact that Egypt has boycotted the Nile Water talks, Fisseha said that even if they come back, a change of heart and a rational attitude is not expected from them.

    Alemayehu Tegenu stresses that taking the grand purpose of poverty reduction, critical investment, and sustainable economic growth into consideration, utilizing the Nile waters is not an option but a necessity for Ethiopia. He told the participants of the conference that Ethiopia is still open to the two downstream countries if mutual benefit is at the center of the negotiation table. 

    By Solomon Goshu
    Source: EthiopianReporter
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  • Egypt-Ethiopia dam dispute 'not a war': Egypt PM

    Egypt-Ethiopia dam dispute 'not a war': Egypt PM

    Egypt's dispute with Ethiopia over the Grand Renaissance Dam "is not a war," Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said Saturday.

    During a visit to Equatorial Guinea, as part of an official delegation that included the minister of foreign affairs Nabil Fahmy, Mahlab said in a press conference the issue should be handled in the context of a "balance of interests."

    The under-construction dam is situated near the Sudanese border on the Blue Nile, a Nile tributary. It is set to be the biggest hydroelectric dam in Africa, producing as much as 6,000 megawatts of energy.

    Egypt has repeatedly expressed its concern that the dam will affect its share of Nile water. The Ethiopian side insists this will not happen.

    "Ethiopia has the right to generate electricity, but at the same time, Egypt's right to life, represented by the Nile's water, shouldn't be compromised," Mahlab said.

    He denied any possibility of clashes between Egypt and Ethiopia, adding that the historic relationship between the two nations was the basis for shaping future relations between them.

    A balance of interests must be guaranteed, Mahlab said. Ethiopia can produce electricity and Egypt can take water.

    "Time hasn't run out, and we haven't lost," he added.

    Mahlab said that during meetings with officials in Chad, Tanzania and Guinea, he had heard their desire for Egypt to return to the African Union (AU).

    Egypt was suspended from the AU following the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi last July. However, the union said Egypt's membership can resume once a democratically elected president is chosen.

    A "clash" between the two countries over the dam is not the answer, foreign minister Fahmy said at the same press conference.

    He added that Egypt had undertaken extensive diplomatic efforts over the past three months to explain its reservations about the dam.

    Nabil also said that Egypt was seeking to meet with Ethiopian and Sudanese officials to explain its point of view and persuade the two countries to engage in serious negotiations.

    Last year, Ethiopia and five other Nile Basin countries – Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi – endorsed an accord, the Co-operative Framework Agreement, which replaces a 1929 treaty granting Egypt veto power over any project on the Nile in upstream countries.

    Sudan, Egypt's immediate downstream country, has backed Ethiopia's plans to build the dam.

    Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan formed a tripartite technical committee to study the possible effects of the Renaissance Dam and to try to reach a consensus on the project. However, the three countries' negotiations reached a stalemate last December.

    Source: ahram.org.eg Read more »
  • Sudan slams Egyptian media’s provocation over Ethiopian dam

    Sudan slams Egyptian media’s provocation over Ethiopian dam

    May 9, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti criticized Cairo’s approach in dealing with Ethiopian Renaissance Dam issue and called on the Egyptian media and other circles to stop what he described as "clowning".

    In statements to pro-government Ashorooq TV, Karti said that Sudan would have suffered the most if constructing the dam was done without environmental studies to prove its safety or economic feasibility to the three main Nile Basin countries .

    Karti stressed that when his government felt that there was a slackening in examining these issues, it formed a national committee to study all aspects of the dam with the right to cooperate with any of the national committees in Ethiopia or Egypt.

    He described the Egyptian -Sudanese relations as good, emphasizing that Sudan has refused to intervene in the ongoing political crisis in Egypt as it is an internal affair in which it respected the will of the Egyptian people and their choice towards change.

    The Sudanese presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour on his end lashed out at some Egyptian journalists whom he said have been playing a very negative role in the relationship between the two peoples.

    Ghandour said that the Sudanese people will never forget the abuses of some of those affiliated with the Egyptian media and their attempts to incite Cairo against Khartoum as well as some of the statements peddled by some Egyptian politicians against Sudan.

    He underscored that Sudanese people are intelligent and tolerant but never forget contempt .

    Sudan has approved of Ethiopia’s bid to build the dam thus angering their Egyptian neighbor.

    Egypt fears that the $4.6 billion hydropower plant will diminish its share of the river’s water flows, arguing its historic water rights must be maintained.

    Ethiopia is the source of about 85% of the Nile’s water, mainly through rainfall in its highlands, with over 90% of Egyptians relying on water from the Nile’s flows.

    In June, a panel of international experts tasked with studying the impacts of the Ethiopian dam on lower riparian countries, including Sudan and Egypt, found that the dam project will not cause significant harm to either country.

    Cairo remains unconvinced and has sought further studies and consultation with Khartoum and Addis Ababa.


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  • Egyptian satellite to monitor construction of Ethiopia's disputed dam

    A new Egyptian satellite will track the construction of an Ethiopian hydroelectric dam over which officials in Cairo and Addis Ababa have been locked in a standoff over fears that the project will hinder Egypt's access to the Nile's water.

    Launched almost two weeks ago, Egysat will monitor Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam by capturing high quality photos of the construction site along with other sources of the Nile, said Alaa El-din El-Nahry, vice president of Egypt's National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences.

    The LE300 million satellite – which will come into operation in mid-June after a two-month test period – will track the dam's height, storage capacity and water discharge. It will also monitor the Kongo River basin to assess the effectiveness of a proposed project to link the Kongo and Nile rivers.

    Egypt's government believes the satellite's findings will bolster its negotiations with Ethiopia and provide legal ground in case it must resort to international arbitration over any violations in the dam's stated purpose of electricity generation, El-Nahry said during a seminar in Cairo, according to Al-Ahram's daily Arabic newspaper.

    Egypt has been particularly concerned that the dam, now more than 30 percent finished, will hugely impact its share of the Nile, the country's main source of potable water.

    Situated near the Sudanese border on the Blue Nile, a Nile tributary, the hydroelectric dam will be the biggest in Africa, capable of producing 6,000 megawatts of energy.

    Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn urged Egypt to return to the tripartite discussions with Ethiopia and Sudan in an effort to settle the dispute. The three countries have been engaged in a series of dialogues since the launch of the project three years ago.

    Last year, Ethiopia and five other Nile-basin countries – Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi – endorsed an accord, the Co-operative Framework Agreement, which replaces a 1929 treaty granting Egypt veto power over any project on the Nile in upstream countries.

    Sudan, Egypt's immediate downstream country, has backed Ethiopia's plans to build the dam.

    Source: ahram.org.eg Read more »
  • Paying for giant Nile dam itself, Ethiopia thwarts Egypt but takes risks


    (Reuters) - Ethiopia's bold decision to pay for a huge dam itself has overturned generations of Egyptian control over the Nile's waters, and may help transform one of the world's poorest countries into a regional hydropower hub.

    By spurning an offer from Cairo for help financing the project, Addis Ababa has ensured it controls the construction of the Renaissance Dam on a Nile tributary. The electricity it will generate - enough to power a giant rich-world city like New York - can be exported across a power-hungry region.

    But the decision to fund the huge project itself also carries the risk of stifling private sector investment and restricting economic growth, and may jeopardize Ethiopia's dream of becoming a middle income country by 2025.

    The dam is now a quarter built and Ethiopia says it will start producing its first 750 megawatts of electricity by the end of this year. In the sandy floor of the Guba valley, near the Sudanese border, engineers are laying compacted concrete to the foundations of the barrage that will tower 145 meters high and whose turbines will throw out 6,000 megawatts - more than any other hydropower project in Africa.

    So far, Ethiopia has paid 27 billion birr ($1.5 billion) out of a total projected cost of 77 billion birr for the dam, which will create a lake 246 km (153 miles) long.

    It is the biggest part of a massive program of public spending on power, roads and railways in one of Africa's fastest growing economies. Ethiopia's output has risen at near double digit rates for a decade, luring investors from Sweden to China.

    But economists warn that squeezing the private sector to pay for the public infrastructure could hurt future prospects. Growth is already showing signs of slowing.

    Even so, Addis Ababa says the price is worth paying to guarantee Egypt has no veto over the dam, the centerpiece of a 25-year project to profit from East Africa's accelerating economic growth by exporting electricity across the region.

    "We did not want this dam to suffer from external pressures, particularly with respect to financing," said Fekahmed Negash, a director within Ethiopia's Ministry of Water and Energy.


    Ethiopia's transformation from an economic disaster barely able to feed its people into an emerging regional leader capable of self-financing mega-projects has recast diplomacy over the Nile, northeast Africa's most important resource.

    Egypt, which has claimed exclusive right to control the river's waters for generations, is fuming. Cairo worries the dam will reduce the flow on which it has depended for drinking water and irrigation for thousands of years.

    It has demanded building be halted pending negotiations between the countries, and had offered to take on joint ownership of the project, an offer Addis Ababa dismissed.

    Cairo no longer wields the same leverage it once did when upriver sub-Saharan countries were too poor to build such huge projects themselves.

    Still, the dam's cost of more than $4 billion is roughly 12 percent of the annual output of Ethiopia, a steep price to pay for a country spurning outside help.

    Ethiopia has resorted to measures like forcing banks that lend to private borrowers to lend the equivalent of 27 percent of their loan books to the government at a low return, effectively a tax on private lending.

    Along with other projects, the dam is draining so much financing from the economy that private investors' access to credit and foreign exchange is being jeopardized, hurting growth, the International Monetary Fund says.

    The IMF forecast in November that output growth would slow to 7.5 percent this fiscal year from 8.5 percent in 2011/12, and said the economy needed restructuring to encourage private sector investment now crowded out by huge public projects.

    Ethiopia needs high growth to fulfill plans to lift its population out of deep poverty. Per capita income was still just $410 in 2012, the World Bank says.

    The government disputes the view that lavish public spending is hurting overall economic performance, and forecasts a higher growth rate than the IMF.

    Italy's biggest construction firm, Salini Impregilo, which is building the dam, says all payments have been made on time so far and it has no worries about Addis Ababa continuing to come up with the needed billions.

    "We have full confidence in the government of Ethiopia," the firm said in an e-mail to Reuters.

    And the dam is just the start for Ethiopia's ambition of becoming a regional power hub. A government plan seen by Reuters would see Africa's second most populous nation target installed capacity of 37,000 MW within 25 years - far more than the World Bank's estimate of just 28,000 MW for the entire current output of sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa.

    More dams are being built and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is fast securing deals to sell power abroad.

    In the Ministry of Energy, a building whose stark design is a throwback to when communists ran Ethiopia's economy into the ground, a poster maps Ethiopia's energy goals.

    From a dot on the Nile, lines run north through Sudan and across the Sahara desert as far as Morocco while extending southwards to South Africa, linking Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and other power-hungry economies.

    Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan already take 180 MW, which, though a small amount so far, is already changing the economics of electricity in the region, Ethiopian officials say.

    "Before it started getting power from Ethiopia, Djibouti's tariff was 30 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour. We are selling to them at 6 cents," said Mekuria Lemma, corporate planning chief at Ethiopia's state-run power corporation, EEPCO.

    Kenya has signed an agreement to buy about 400 MW. Rwanda too inked a deal in March to take 400 MW by 2018 and a similar arrangement with Tanzania is expected. Beyond Africa, talks are expected over supplying 900 MW to Yemen via an undersea cable.


    As long as Ethiopia spurns outside funding, there seems to be little an angry Cairo can now do to stop the dam.

    The sparkling streams at the foot of Ethiopia's Mount Gish spill into Lake Tana from where the Blue Nile meanders gently towards Sudan's capital, Khartoum, where it joins the White Nile and flows north through Egypt and drains into the Mediterranean.

    Among Cairo's worries is concern that years of filling the new dam's 74 billion cubic meter reservoir will temporarily cut the river's flow, and that surface water evaporation from the huge new lake will then reduce it permanently.

    "Water problems even without this dam are sky high," said water expert Klaus Lanz in reference to Egypt's shortage.

    Egypt leans on a 1959 treaty with Sudan which hands Cairo the lion's share of water. Some Egyptian politicians even urged military action last year against Ethiopia, raising concerns of a "water war".

    The public political bluster has died down, but Egyptian officials still refer to safeguarding their nation's quota of the Nile's flow as a matter of national security.

    In a government white paper, Cairo calls the construction of the dam a "violation" of international legal principles, in particular the duty to prevent harm to other riparian nations.

    "We have no other resources," Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told Reuters. "So it's not a joke. We will not allow our national interests, our national security ... to be endangered."


    "We are still for cooperation, negotiation, but only serious negotiations, not to waste time," Abdellaty added.

    But distracted by militant violence and political turmoil at home, Cairo appears to have few levers with which to force Addis Ababa to halt the project. Ethiopian officials say the dam could be completed as early as 2016.

    Ethiopia denies Egypt will suffer and complains that its northern neighbor has flexed its political muscle to deter financiers from backing other Ethiopian power projects.

    Fekahmed of the water ministry said Cairo had influenced a decision by China's Electric Power Equipment and Technology Co. to pull out of a $1 billion deal to connect the dam to the grid.

    "The authorities in Egypt made a noise," Fekahmed said, adding that another Chinese group was now lined up to fund the high voltage lines. Egypt's Abdelatty did not comment on the specific case but confirmed that Cairo was trying to use its influence to push foreigners away from backing the project.

    "We have contacts with everybody," said Abdelatty. "(The minister) raised it with Russia, with China, you name it."

    In a diplomatic coup for Ethiopia, and a political blow to Egypt, the other major down river country, Sudan, has slowly warmed to the dam project and lifted its own earlier objections. Sudan may benefit from cheap power and irrigation water.

    Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy told Sky News Arabic this month he rejected a military solution and dismissed referring the dispute to the International Court of Justice, which would require the agreement of both sides.

    Instead, Egypt continues to push hard for further studies on the dam's design and impact on downstream countries. All the while, Ethiopia shows no sign of ordering the downing of tools.

    "We will finish it whether they like it or not," said a senior Ethiopian official who requested anonymity. "But of course, we will continue negotiating in the meantime."

    (Additional reporting by Richard Lough in Nairobi, Stephen Kalin in Cairo and Danilo Masoni in Milan; Writing by Richard Lough)

    By Aaron Maasho

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  • Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam: ending the logic of might over the Nile Basin

    Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam: ending the logic of might over the Nile Basin
    By Mansour Al Hadi (Ph.D.)

    Fierce resistance to the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project has an unprecedented and strong presence in the major circles of Egyptian media, academia and polity based upon the water policy of ‘I win if you lose.’ Recent unsubstantiated hypothetical calculations made by Egyptian officials and opinion makers have suffered from scientific and logical imprecision.

    In an interview with Tahrir satellite channel, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on Friday March 7, 2014 reminded Ethiopia that his country would take “a decisive response” on the construction of the GERD if future negotiations failed. He also underscored that “Addis Ababa should bear the consequences of that crisis.” This entails that there are people who would like to ride the boats of the passing ages within the helm of myth, Pax Britannica, Cold War, Pax Americana and unilateral water security cards.

    Swaying between cooperation and contention, Egypt’s persistence on a choiceless singular water policy to make the Nile River prey to its exclusive utilization, use and development becomes customary. This deep-rooted unquenchable thirst for ‘water imperialism’ and the securitization policy of the River were implanted by Muhammed Ali, the first ruler of present day Egypt.

    Egypt’s Policy on the Nile entails that Muhammed Ali designed a policy to subsume the whole Nile Basin into an Egyptian Empire. Similarly, all the leaders of Egypt took the same route upholding the ‘monopolistic policy’ over the development, utilization and use of the Nile under the self-originating regime of self-serving ‘rights’. This kind of Egypt’s long-cherished position drums out Ethiopia along with other upper riparian countries from the heads of the Nile Valley into the appendix of the drama of the River’s affairs denounced her and its children as to the myth of Sisyphus to endlessly roll a rock of grinding poverty, sheer indignity, and excruciating famines to the pinnacle of the mountain.

    The myth of Sisyphus was applied to the poor Ethiopian farmers who were yearning for a small scrap of bread and thirsty for water during those chilly decades of the 1970s and the 1980s. Beyond the horizon of the Ethiopian mountains, Egyptians did not see and experience any calamity as a result of water scarcity, drought and inadequate rainfall as in Ethiopia, barring the decrease of water in Lake Nasser.  Robert O. Collins, Professor of History at the University of California, contrasted the traumatic situation in Ethiopia and the elation in Egypt and gave the following conclusion: “...while the Egyptians survived because of the waters stored behind their high dam, a million Ethiopians perished from famine and thirst when the rains did not arrive. They had no dam.”

    However, the changing world of the 21st century has rung the bell in which upper riparian countries can no longer be victims of water imperialism cultivated by Egypt’s unquenchable thirst claims of ‘historical rights’ in collaboration with many actors for its only survival. They have also demonstrated that they have the capability to be at the center of their geopolitical and hydro political making as movers of history than moves based upon the equitable, reasonable and fair utilization of resources, including the Nile.

    Ethiopia has also affirmed that the tragic results of famines, wars and frequent droughts should not be experienced by countries along the banks of the Nile River, Tekezze, and Baro. The GERD is one of the indispensable instruments to prevent such catastrophic experiences of Ethiopia.

    On the contrary, Egypt has not come to this age to give birth to a policy that is adapted to the equitable and reasonable use of the Nile waters. The up-streamers are now demanding that their narrative be heard. The commencement of the GERD becomes one important example that changes the discourse of the persistent logic of ‘water security’ – Egypt’s right of the unilateral development of the Nile-ignoring the interests of the upper riparian countries.

    Egypt’s logic of might and its unilateral usage of the Nile obscure the pivotal significance of sustained dialogue and genuine cooperation to mutually reap the benefits of the Nile. Besides their policy barring Ethiopia’s logic of right, equity and just has no place to consider the potential benefits of the GERD to Egypt.

    The GERD is one of the most crucial dams in the region as well as in Africa as it scientifically unleashes the following benefits to both Sudan and Egypt. Being the epicenter of clean and renewable energy in the region, it will help Ethiopia export cheap hydropower to both East and North African regions. This will create a situation that supports the region’s march towards industrialization and modernization. Ethiopia will also satisfy its annual growing power supply demand, which is about 32 percent.

    The GERD together with the reservoir is indispensable to mitigate frequent droughts and manage flooding in both Egypt and Sudan. This is because as a result of GERD’s hydrological significance and position in regulating and providing sustainable flow in both wet and dry seasons to lower riparian countries. This will assist the region to enhance and intensify agricultural production in lower riparian countries.  

    The GERD will also avoid the deposition of sedimentation and siltation in lower riparian countries’ dams and reservoirs. According to hydrologists, the Blue Nile along with Sobbat and Tekezze annually carries between 157.2 and 207.2 million tons of sediment to Sennar Dam, the Roseires Dam, Merowe Dam, Aswan Dam and others. This huge concentration of sedimentation and siltation in lower riparian dams and reservoirs has affected both Egypt and Sudan to lose millions of dollars to maintenance, replacement of turbines and many other costs. When completed, the GERD will reduce the sedimentation by about 86 percent. In addition to the Dam, the Government of Ethiopia has gone a long way in restructuring the ecosystems of the highlands through water conservation, afforestation programs and other efforts to avoid deforestation and sedimentation.

    The up-streamers’ clarion calls for the equitable and fair utilization of the Nile waters to mutually fight against food insecurity, energy scarcity, climate change, drought, famine, poor infrastructure, and poverty as well as other new security threats. Egypt needs to join in the march towards up-streamers’ journey to the summit of African Renaissance making the Nile as a source of cooperation, light and development.

    According to Mohandas Gandhi, ‘‘There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s needs but not every man’s greed.’’ The Nile is not an exception to this reality. The intense and selfish interest of Egypt to the waters of the Nile has to be lessened. The way forward is to cling to choice, pluralism, shared benefit and shared vision for the entire development of the Basin under the principle of comparative advantage.

    Ed.'s Note: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter.
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