21 October 2013

More Light on Egypt-Ethiopia-Sudan Talks

The following article sheds more detail on the upcoming Tripartite meeting (scheduled for tomorrow) between Egypt-Ethiopia-Sudan on the Blue Nile River Renaissance Dam. The article states that this meeting was scheduled and cancelled twice since the release of the report by the International Panel of Experts (IPE) earlier this year.

Egypt is coming out of a period of internal instability and able to address external actions of concern. Sudan has an open mind to the IPE findings, mainly that there will be little downstream impact - small enough not to be considered significant. Sudan has offered to cooperate with the project by sending it's own people to help with construction. While Egypt is calling for further investigation into possible dam impacts.

The meeting will be held in Khartoum. Sudan is well placed to mediate between it's two riparian neighbors. If Sudan chooses to take this role, this could bode well for both Ethiopia and Egypt, since Sudan is positioned to benefit from the dam in the areas of increased energy in the grid and reduced flood events - more control of the water flow means that Sudan can expand present irrigation projects. Sudan is also positioned geographically in the area most potentially impacted by Renaissance. Sudan's people of the Blue Nile State that is. The Blue Nile State is still in the grips of conflict and instability following the conclusion of the very long Sudan civil war. People that did live on the river may be displaced elsewhere in refugee camps, but I think that these communities are not priority for the government. Clear data about the communities living downstream of the Renaissance Dam does not exist, but since the dam is being constructed only about 20 km from the border, it is obvious that subsistence communities would be impacted. Whether or not Khartoum is concerned with the livelihood and safety of these communities is unclear. That Khartoum is interested in further water infrastructural development is clear. What the costs will be for these development moves is unclear.

In my opinion, the international community at large could be doing more to help these countries develop in a way where more people benefit than lose.

Downstream countries to hold talks with Ethiopia over dam row

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
October 18, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) – Officials from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan will meet next week to commence discussions over concerns about a massive hydropower plant project that Addis Ababa wants to build on the Nile River.
“The meeting is scheduled to take place on 22 October between officials of the three countries”, said Fekahmed Negash, boundary and trans-boundary rivers affairs director at the ministry of water, irrigation and energy.
According to Negash, the three parties will discuss ways of implementing the final recommendations announced in June by the international panel of experts who were tasked to assess the possible impacts of Ethiopia’s grand renaissance dam project on downstream countries.
In their final findings, a panel of 10 experts conclused that the dam project won’t have a significant effect on lower riparian countries.
Following the report’s release, Sudan accepted the final findings and even offered to send experts and technicians to help with the construction of the dam.
However, Egypt has refused to accept the report’s conclusions, calling for more studies and consultations with Ethiopia and Sudan.
The meeting, which has previously been cancelled twice before, will be held in Khartoum.
According to the ministry, the tripartite meeting will be the first since the international panel of experts submitted their final findings to the governments of the three countries.
The panel’s report hasn’t yet been made public, but Negash says experts recommended further studies to analyse the impact of the dam on Egypt’s water use and future Nile dams to be built by Sudan and Ethiopia.
Egypt fears that the $4.6-billion mega dam project, which Ethiopia is building near the Sudanese border, would diminish water flows to its territory and insists that its historic water rights be respected.
The Nile River, of which Ethiopia sources 85%, is a lifeline to over 90% of Egyptians.
When the 6,000 megawatt plant is completed, Ethiopia plans to sell clean and cheap energy to neighbouring countries, including Egypt.
The project, which Ethiopia is fully funding from its own coffers, is currently 23% completed.
(ST)