Ethiopia: Nile is not only source of life but also source of cooperation

Renaissance Dam2Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia announced that they have “reached a consensus over the next steps” on the establishment of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam after 11 rounds of talks between the three countries.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is being built on the River Nile, has been a key part of Transformational Plan for Ethiopia’s Mega National Project since the dam’s building process started in April 2011.

Ethiopia hopes the project will transform it into a power hub for the electricity-hungry region, as Ethiopia’s “long-awaited national project,” which is scheduled to be completed in 2017, will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant with a storage capacity of 74 billion cubic meters of water.

But Egypt fears that the designated plan set for the establishment of the dam might affect its 55 cubic meter-share of Nile water.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia ruled out the two agreements of 1929 and 1959 which guaranteed Share of Nile Water only for Egypt and Sudan, because of the agreement is invalid as it is that of Colonial period. Ethiopia never accepts all agreements under colonial period.

Ethiopia always demands fair share of the Nile water not only between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, but also between all Nile downstream countries.

Ethiopia proposes and led the process of the 2010 Entebbe Agreement. With the population number doubling in the downstream countries in the last two decades, fair share of Nile water is a matter of life for all downstream countries’ Citizens. All life equals matter here. The Grand Renaissance Dam is the centre-piece of Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter. Addis Ababa plans to spend some 12 billion USD on harnessing its rivers for hydro power production in the next two decades.

Ethiopia says that the dam will not cause harm to any Nile Basin country, saying that it is mainly aimed at generating power for a country where only 10 per cent of the population have a consistent electricity service.

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Ethiopia says building the dam is unquestionable and building the dam will never stopped even for a second. Currently above 50 per cent of the dam’s construction has been completed.

Egypt

Egypt was guaranteed 55 million cubic meters of Nile water through the two agreements of 1929 and 1959.

The 1929 deal involved an agreement between Egypt and Britain, the colonial power which was at the time representing three other Nile basin countries – Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania – that Egypt be guaranteed 48 billion cubic meters of Nile water.

The 1959 accord between Egypt and Sudan increased Egypt’s share to 55 billion cubic meters following the building of the High Dam in Upper Egypt’s Aswan.

However, in May 2010, five Nile basin countries – Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Rwanda – signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement of the Nile Basin Countries, dubbed the Entebbe Agreement, declaring the 1929 and 1959 agreements were “void and invalid because they were written and ratified under British colonialism.”

In 2011, Burundi became the sixth signatory to the Entebbe Agreement, followed by South Sudan in 2013.

Artist's impression of the Renaissance Dam, under construction on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. Photo: http://africanarguments.org

Artist’s impression of the Renaissance Dam, under construction on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. Photo: http://africanarguments.org

The March Declaration void

The March Declaration, signed between Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Ethiopia’s Prime Minster Hailemariam Dessalegn and Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir included 10 articles.

The leaders of the three countries signed a co-operation deal in Khartoum in March that paved the way for a joint approach to regional water supplies.

This Declaration can be taken as a sign of Cooperation.

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The 10 principles in the March agreement included giving priority to downstream countries for electricity generated by the dam, a mechanism for resolving conflicts, and providing compensation for damages.

The Khartoum Agreement

The Khartoum Agreement is one of the fruitful cooperation between three countries and is the output of the March Declaration. After 11 rounds of talks between the three countries, they have “reached a consensus over the next steps” of the establishment of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

In Khartoum’s agreement talks between the foreign and water ministers of the three countries ministerial meeting focuses on two main issues:

1. Agreeing on the timeline set by Ethiopia for filling the dam

2. Agreeing on an independent firm to conduct studies on the possible impact of the dam on the downriver countries of Egypt and Sudan.

It seems issue No.2 is successfully accomplished with the three countries had initially picked French firm BRL and Dutch firm Deltares in April but the Dutch Deltares firm – assigned to 30 per cent of the work, withdrew in September, saying that the current situation “did not guarantee independent and good quality studies,” leading them to replace it with French firm Artelia on Tuesday.

According to Sudanese Water Resources, Irrigation, and Electricity Minister Moataz Mousa, technical studies will start in February, when the six ministers are due to meet again, and will take between six and 15 months.

Issue No.1, Agreeing on the timeline set by Ethiopia for filling the Dam, seems to be a top agenda and a deal between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan could be finalized when the officials from the three countries meet again.

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SOURCE: Ethiopian Herald

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