May 30, 2013 (Bloomberg) — Ethiopia’s government said it will try to accommodate nations concerned that their water supplies may be affected by the damming of the Blue Nile River, as Sudanese and Egyptian officials met to discuss the issue.
Ethiopia, source of one of the two tributaries of the Nile River, will start filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile at the “end of next year,” Deputy Prime Minister Debretsion Gebremichael said in an interview yesterday. The 80 billion-birr ($4.3 billion) hydropower project may begin generating of electricity next year and is set for completion in 2017, he said.
The schedule for filling the 74 billion cubic meter reservoir is expected to be a “major comsg4ncern” for the downstream nations of Egypt and Sudan, said Debretsion. Once completed, the power plant will be Africa’s largest with the capacity to generate 6,000 megawatts. Egypt, which relies on the Nile for almost all of its water, has historically opposed upstream projects on the world’s longest river.
“We are not selfish, we are not only looking at our national interest,” said Debretsion, who is also chairman of the state-owned Ethiopian Electric Power Corp. “This is an international river and we will try our best to accommodate their benefits and their interests.”
Seeking AssuranceSudanese Water Resources and Electricity Minister Osama Abdalla Mohamed al-Hassan arrived in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, today to discuss the issue with Egyptian officials, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.
Egypt’s government and public are concerned that the dam may decrease the flow of the Nile, Mohamed Edrees, Egypt’s ambassador to Ethiopia, said in a phone interview today from Addis Ababa.
“Our concern is for it not to affect our water security, to harm the water coming to Egypt,” he said. “How to do it effectively on the ground and how to implement it, this is something to be left to the technicians to discuss and agree on.”
The dam, which will be twice the size of Singapore, will be full in “five to six years,” Ethiopian Water and Energy Minister Alemayehu Tegenu said at a ceremony to celebrate the diversion of the river yesterday in Guba, 454 kilometers (282 kilometers) northwest of Addis Ababa. “We won’t fill the reservoir at one go,” he said.
‘Broad Understanding’Sudan’s government has had consultations with Ethiopia and Egypt and there is a “broad understanding on the issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abu-Bakr al-Siddiq said in a phone interview today from Khartoum, the capital.
“We don’t have any problem with what the Ethiopians have done,” he said. Edrees said the diversion has no “direct implication” as it doesn’t alter the flow of the river.
A technical committee made up of neutral experts and four representatives each from Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt is expected to deliver a report on the project in a “few days,” Edrees said.
“Actual dam construction” can start after the diversion was carried out a “few days ago,” said Debretsion. The altering of the course was a milestone in the project as “we managed to direct Abay on our own side,” Alemayehu said, using the Amharic name for the Nile.
Members of the Ethiopian public have bought bonds worth more than 5 billion birr so far to pay for the dam, which will be financed from domestic sources only, Bereket Simon, who heads a fund-raising council for the project, said in an interview at the site yesterday.
Egypt summons Ethiopian ambassador over Blue Nile moveMay 30, 2013 (Ahram Online) — Foreign ministry summons Ethiopian ambassador to express Egypt’s displeasure with Addis Ababa’s recent move to divert course of Blue Nile within context of dam construction project.
Egypt’s foreign ministry on Wednesday summoned Ethiopian Ambassador Mahmoud Dardir to express its displeasure with Ethiopia’s construction of a major dam on the Blue Nile.
Head of the ministry’s African affairs committee, Ambassador Ali Hefny, along with other diplomats, met with Dardir Wednesday to convey Egypt’s unhappiness with the move.
Egyptian diplomats further criticised Ethiopia for going ahead with the project without taking into account the recommendations of a technical committee – tasked with studying the issue – consisting of ten specialists, including representatives of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
In a Tuesday interview with Ahram Online, Egyptian ambassador to Ethiopia Mohamed Idris stated that Egypt was pursuing a “win-win scenario in which the interests of both sides can be served and accommodated.”
Idris added: “We’re expecting Ethiopian officials to make good on their earlier promise to act in a way that would not harm Egyptian interests.”
A report on the possible impact of Ethiopia’s ‘Renaissance Dam’ is expected to be issued later this week by the committee of specialists.
Sources close to the committee say the report will include concerns over the potential impact of the dam on Egypt and Sudan.
It is also expected to refer to worries that cracks could develop in the dam within a few years, eventually leading to serious flooding.
Ethiopia on Tuesday began diverting the course of the Blue Nile, one of the Nile River’s two major tributaries, as part of its project to build a series of new dams for electricity production.
The move, called “historic” by Ethiopian government spokesperson Bereket Simon, has prompted criticism from downstream Egypt and Sudan, since the step could negatively affect both countries’ water quotas.
The Blue Nile provides Egypt with the lion’s share of its annual 55 billion cubic metres of river water.
According to the state-run National Planning Institute, Egypt will need an additional 21 billion cubic metres of water per year by 2050 – on top of its current quota of 55 billion metres – to meet the needs of a projected population of 150 million.
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