If the case is that Egypt fears water shortage, let's consider for a moment the hydroaccount. Aswan has a load of storage water behind it in Lake Nasser. I have heard that there is 2 years worth of water storage there. If the Ethiopian dam takes 5 years to fill, reducing by 20% the water flow, this only takes away 1 year worth of water from Egypt, which it can make up with what it has in storage. More to the point, if there are worries about this filling being too rapid, I am sure that Ethiopia would be open to discussion about taking longer to fill the dam in order to avoid downstream problems. Ethiopia's government has remained constant on the point of invitation to cooperate with Egypt and Sudan on this dam. Ethiopia has also remained constant that they are going to build this dam, they need to develop themselves and get away from 1. wide-spread poverty, 2. lack of energy in the grid, 3. reliance on Western donor organizations, 4. being on the LDC - least developed countries list, which essentially looks at GDP. GDP will benefit from the sale of energy generated (not all of it, we are talking 6,000 MW and currently less than 50% national coverage).
Aside from all this official talk the situation is like this: the Blue Nile is a river that runs through Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. To date, only Sudan and Egypt have used the river to the advantage of their countries' needs. Ethiopia is seriously moving forward with national development - and developing the resource of the Blue Nile is part of that. It is not a minor river in Ethiopia - it constitutes almost 50% of all the surface fresh water. I don't know how many people live in the watershed exactly, but the point is that having been to Egypt and Ethiopia, there is a marked difference in development. Ethiopia is attempting to find ways to solve its own problems of poverty and development. I think Ethiopia, like so many donor countries, has waited for years for these donor organizations to solve problems of health, nutrition, education, etc. Although I saw some amazing projects that the Catholic Church was providing in Ethiopia, these are small compared with the rising tide of need. The government cannot wait anymore. They are responsible to their people. So, we have the Renaissance Dam project. They also have Gibe III, a favorite among environmentalists. What can be the alternative? If not their water resources for energy and then in turn for industry and production, the accepted course we are familiar with in development from a subsistence state to a technological state, what should Ethiopia do?
In my opinion, it is well understood that Egypt is an arid country and relies on the water of the Nile, not only for economic wellbeing, but for transportation, subsistence farmers, energy generation, tourism, and drinking water. It is not a question that Egypt has a right to the water. Ethiopia recognizes that this is a shared resource - at least this is the impression that I have from conversations with Minister Barakat and others in the Ethiopian government. They also expressed their willingness to work directly with Egypt and Sudan on this project. What about encouraging the two countries to invest in the project and then get a return later - like a say in the management of the water flow or some of the electricity generated???
But, the question still remains, does Egypt have the right to demand the portion of the water that currently is allowed in the standing treaty? Who can decide?
This is something that could be brought to court, and maybe to an international court to consider, since the original document was generated by the UK - maybe they should step up to help here????
The other riparian countries, minus Sudan, have been calling in the last several years, to revamp the colonial era treaty to reflect the fact that there are new nation-states since that treaty was signed that are riparian to the river. These nations are not considered in the original treaty - they didn't exist as independent states. This to me seems fair enough to revisit the legitimacy of the existing treaty. Because the group, Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), funded by the World Bank with offices in several places, has failed to move the negotiations forward, people are very disappointed in this organization and would like to see a different approach. Maybe a court hearing is in order. But about the dam? I think instead the dam should be kept in the realm of nation-nation negotiations. The problems cited are technical and best handled by the engineers and hydrologists.
As an aside: Why on Earth, the countries of the Nile Basin allowed Western interests to recommend a design for solving this problem with the NBI is beyond me. Of course it failed - it has no teeth and is too soft in dealing with very hard things. It was Western interests that put the countries in question in the situation that they are currently in now. Now this suggestion to take the two countries to international court to sort things out about the dam - probably in the interest to avoid armed conflict - is again a Western solution. Forget the West, Africa, you are capable of figuring this out without them.
Here is my advice:
Leave the technical problems to technical people, like Lama El Hatow and her capable team in Egypt and Mr. Meheret Debebe and his capable team at the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO) in Ethiopia. Find solutions that everyone can live with regarding water sharing. Egypt could set up gauging stations in Ethiopia for more data sharing. The three countries, Sudan included, could look to other systems, like the international Columbia River, to see how the dams can be run in tandem for flood control and regulated water flow.
Here is the article: