31 October 2013

Research Experience: Feature Blog Series

Time has been tight as I entered the last stretch of PhD work: analysis and writing. Although I have neglected this blog accordingly, a few researchers I am in touch with have offered to give an interview on their fieldwork. Over the next few posts, I will share parts of these interviews and call it the Research Experience: Feature Blog Series. I will introduce the researchers and what they share on engaging in field work on water issues. This is a bit different from the blogging I have written thus far.

If you are a researcher and interested to share an anecdote about your research experience or would like to participate in a brief interview to be shared on this blog site, please contact me directly. I love to hear about what other researchers are engaging in, what they run into, what they learn.

I hope you enjoy this series!

25 October 2013

New Study on Renaissance Dam Downstream Impacts

The governments of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia agreed to conduct another analysis and investigation of the Renaissance Dam downstream impacts as well as structural integrity. This comes out of the tripartite meeting this week in Khartoum. Looks like negotiations are moving things forward. More investigation is never a bad thing!

Bloomberg News

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan Consider New Study of Nile Dam Impact

October 21, 2013

Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt agreed to examine the regional impact of a $4.2 billion dam being built on a Nile river tributary in Ethiopia after experts said earlier studies were inconclusive.
A meeting of water ministers and delegates in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, on Nov. 4 will discuss conducting a new study of the hydropower project’s downstream effect and more detailed appraisals of its environmental and social impact, said Fekahmed Negash, head of the Ethiopian Water Ministry’s Boundary and Transboundary Rivers Affairs Directorate.
The 6,000-megawatt Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, set to be Africa’s largest when completed in 2017, has raised concern in Cairo that it will reduce the flow of the Nile, which provides almost all of Egypt’s water.
In a June report, a group of international experts said Ethiopia’s analysis of the dam’s impact was “very basic, and not yet at a level of detail, sophistication and reliability that would befit a development of this magnitude, importance and with such regional impact.”
Next month’s meeting “will be on the way forward on the implementation of the recommendations of the International Panel of Experts,” Fekahmed said Oct. 18 by phone from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
As suggested by the panel, which included two specialists from each country and four international experts, the assessment will weigh the impact of other Ethiopian dams planned on the Blue Nile, which originates in Ethiopia and is the largest tributary of the Nile, Fekahmed said.

Dam Reservoir

Ethiopia is the source of 86 percent of the water that flows into the Nile, the world’s longest river that runs 4,160 miles (6,700 kilometers) through 11 countries from Burundi in the south to Egypt, where it empties into the Mediterranean Sea. Ethiopia has said it will take five to six years to fill the 74 billion cubic-meter (2.6 trillion cubic-feet) reservoir created by the dam.
Ethiopia won’t stop construction of the dam, which will produce electricity partly for export, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told reporters in Addis Ababa. The project can benefit the region if all sides show “political commitment” to it, he said Oct. 4.
Sudan backs the dam, which will “bring many benefits and blessings for us,” Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said in June.

Structural Concerns

Concerns raised by the panel about the structure of the dam being built in western Ethiopia, 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Sudanese border, have been addressed by contractor Salini Costruttori SpA, according to Fekahmed. The Rome-based company is able to adjust its design during construction as it has a contract to manage the entire project, he said.
The panel’s call to assess the stability of the rocks on which the foundations of the main dam and an auxiliary dam will rest was a “reminder” to Salini to “take care of this in the design,” Gideon Asfaw, an Ethiopian civil engineer who sat on the panel, said in an interview.
“Whatever you find there is an engineering solution to it,” he said in Addis Ababa on Oct. 11. “There is no cause for alarm regarding the geological formation or the foundation design.”

Egypt's Foreign Minister is on the Move in the Nile With Positive Message

Egypt's FM is moving throughout the Nile Basin and made statements affirming forward negotiations with Nile Basin countries. Quote: "No party could solve its own problems at the expense of another, no Nile Basin country could achieve its goals without achieving the goals of the other party." Looks like the path forward with negotiation is working itself out and Nile Basin countries are quite able, on their own, to come to the table together.

See complete article below about FM Nabil Fahmi's trip to Great Lakes portion of the Nile Basin region. 

Egypt: FM - Egypt's Priority to Reinforce Relations With Nile Basin Countries

Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi said that Egypt gives high priority to reinforcing the relations with Nile Basin countries.
In statements on the sidelines of his current visit to Burundi on Tuesday 22/10/2013, Fahmi said "No party could solve its own problems at the expense of another, no Nile Basin country could achieve its goals without achieving the goals of the other party."
Asked about the importance of his current African tour as for Egypt's Nile water quota, Fahmi said any dialogue between Egypt and any Nile Basin country addresses the Nile water issue, underlining that he discussed this matter with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa during their meetings on Monday 21/10/2013. He added that they shared identical views on the need to find innovative solutions to any problem related to this matter away from conflict.
Talks with officials in Uganda and Burundi focus on how to build a better future on the basis of what is coming, Fahmi said, stressing the need not to waste time in a debate on what happened in the past.
He further stressed that Egypt's needs of water are more than the quantity of water available to it and even exceed its historic rights over Nile water.
He concluded by stressing the need to focus on urgent matters, like the Middle East peace process, the repercussions of the Syrian crisis and water-related issues, in the coming period.

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


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.

20 October 2013

Renaissance Dam talks resume between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt

This week government representatives from Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt will gather to discuss findings of the International Panel of Experts (IPE) report that has still not been disclosed to the public. Although I understand the sensitivity of needed negotiations, I expected more candor on the subject of recommendations from the report. This process is anything but transparent and this has been a huge disappointment to witness.

Somethings I would like to know, (I am not the only one who feels this way gaging by how many people have contacted me to ask if I have access to this report): 

  • Why the delay in releasing the findings? 
  • Can't we all be a part of the decision and verification of the diligence used by these "experts"? 
  • Is the world at large really okay with high level governmental officials, who are not scientists although some are engineers (engineers and scientists do not often speak the same language, and often do not even get along personally due to very different ways of understanding the world around them), making decisions based on scientific findings or engineering structural integrity? It seems that there is an attitude of ownership, or at least privilege, when it comes to resources related to the Blue Nile River... Why isn't the international community at large paying attention to this situation as keenly as they do, say, the Mekong River?
  • What is classified about changes to the river system that impact several communities and several hundreds of thousands of people?
  • Why is it that governments can hold power over science-based information?

Hopefully after this next round of discussions, citizens of all affected countries, as well as interested parties (present company included) from outside the countries can view what the report found and suggests for a sustainable and safe project. Let's go guys! Negotiate and release the report!

Egypt: Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt Discussions On Renaissance Dam Panel Report Next Week

Photo: Addis Fortune
Hydropower projects like the Tekeze Dam are expected to go a long way in providing in the country’s energy needs.
Ethiopia's Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy has said Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt will hold discussions next week on ways to implement the recommendations put forth by the International Panel of Experts (IPoE) who submitted a report on the impact of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Fekahmed Negash, Boundary and Tran-boundary Rivers Affairs Director at the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, said the meeting is scheduled to take place, probably in Khartoum, on October 22, 2013 between officials of the three countries. The meeting will be the first since the international experts submitted their findings to the three governments in June this year. Two previously planned meetings had to be cancelled. Although the content of the report has not been made public, Ethiopia has expressed its readiness to implement the recommendations.
The Boundary and Tran-boundary Rivers Affairs Director said the panel recommended for further studies to analyze the impact of the dam on Egypt's water use and future Nile dams to be built by Sudan and Ethiopia. In a recent press conference, Prime Minister Hailemariam, responding to questions about possible structural measures needed to stabilize the foundations, said the Panel of Experts had studied the issue carefully and had unequivocally confirmed that the dam was safe.

02 October 2013

Nile Project Releases Aswan Album

Please follow this link to see the NPR review of Nile Project's recently released Aswan Album. Getting great reviews so far!
You can take a listen here.

The recording, live, is clear as a bell as is the voice of the lead female vocalist. The fusion of instruments makes for a fascinating listen. The result is explosive! Hope you check it out.

For more on the Nile Project, please visit the site, check the project out on Facebook, or link from top of this page.