Ethiopian regime offer joint ownership of the Nile Dam with Egypt and Sudan

October 24, 2013 in Ethiopian regime offer joint ownership of the Nile Dam

By : Ayah Aman  original title  “In Switch, Egypt May Join Ethiopia In Nile Dam Project”

Cairo and Addis Ababa may soon reach a truce to calm their dispute over the construction of the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. Both countries have recently shown good faith and agreed to negotiate about the project. Egypt has even agreed to take part in building the dam, though without declaring its conditions for doing so.

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Summary :

In a surprising move, Egypt said that it will consider participating with Ethiopia in the construction of the Renaissance Dam, which it had staunchly opposed.

Original Title:
A Truce and a Call for Reconciliation Between Egypt and Ethiopia to Participate in the Construction of the Controversial Renaissance Dam
Author: Ayah Aman
Posted on: October 21 2013
Translated by: Rani Geha

Categories : Originals  Egypt  Security

At a news conference Oct. 7, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced that his country welcomes the participation of Egypt and Sudan in the construction of the dam and stressed that his government considers the dam to be jointly owned by Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt. Cairo viewed his statement as a positive step toward reaching a consensus on the project, despite its earlier sharp criticism of it.

In a telephone conversation Oct. 17, Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdul Muttalib told Al-Monitor: “Egypt doesn’t mind joining the Ethiopian government in building the dam for the service and development of the Ethiopian people. But we must agree on a number of items in a clear way to prevent any damage to Egypt as a result of the dam construction. The Egyptian government always opts for cooperation and participation. … During the coming negotiations with Ethiopia over the dam, we will clarify our position regarding the policy and method of operating the dam, the size of the storage lake attached to it, and how to fill it with water in times of flood and drought.” He stressed, “Egypt will definitely not participate in the construction unless these policies are agreed upon and agreements regarding them are signed.”

On Oct. 8, Ethiopian Minister of Water Alemayehu Tegenu had tweeted, “Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam never be slowed down for a second[.]  We can pay any cost for it … [sic].”

Egypt gets 55.5 billion cubic meters of Nile water annually in accordance with the 1959 agreement signed between Egypt and Sudan. About 85% of that share comes from the Ethiopian plateau, in particular from the Blue Nile tributary, on which Ethiopia intends to build the Renaissance Dam to store 63 billion cubic meters of water in and generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity. The Ethiopian, Sudanese and Egyptian water ministers are expected to meet Oct. 2023 in Khartoum to discuss the May report of the Tripartite Commission on the repercussions of the dam and how to implement the report’s recommendations for avoiding harm to any of the Nile states.

On Oct. 8, Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Biblawi met with the Supreme Committee for the Nile Water to agree on negotiating mechanisms for dealing with Ethiopia. The gathering ended with approval for Egypt taking part in the dam’s construction.

An official Egyptian source following the Nile issue who asked to remain anonymous, told Al-Monitor on Oct. 16, “The government has prepared a new paper to negotiate with Ethiopia regarding the Renaissance Dam. Technical and legal teams have been tasked with studying the Egyptian [negotiating] items, which are expected to be presented to the Ethiopian side at the next meeting. … The Egyptian offer includes full participation in the construction, management and operation of the dam, by dispatching Egyptian engineers who specialize in the field of dam construction; the signing of an agreement with the Ethiopian side on sending [to Ethiopia] a permanent Egyptian water mission [that will be stationed] at the dam; and [Egypt’s] participation in the funding and working as an intermediary to obtain aid and international loans and grants to finance dam construction.”

The final report of the Tripartite Commission contained several technical remarks regarding how the dam might harm Egypt. Some experts therefore have reservations about the Egyptian government’s sudden decision to participate in the project, especially if it is without considering the full consequences of such a decision.

Al-Monitor obtained a copy of the report prepared by the Egyptian government on the Tripartite Commission’s final report. The Egyptian document states that building and operating the Renaissance Dam according to the current specifications is not in the interest of downstream countries — Egypt and Sudan — and will enable Ethiopia to fully control the flow of the Blue Nile. Moreover, the time required to initially fill the dam reservoir, three years, will negatively affect Egypt.

The report pointed out that the study of existing designs showed a defect in the safety features concerning the secondary Saddle Dam. This, in turn, has the potential to affect the safety of the High Dam in Egypt. Most studies submitted by Ethiopia are preliminary and not meant for implementation purposes. In addition, no  environmental and social impact assessments on downstream countries have been conducted.

A diplomatic source involved in the negotiations among Cairo, Khartoum, and Addis Ababa  told Al-Monitor, “The sudden announcement of Egypt’s participation in the dam construction is linked to a number of factors that govern its relationship with Ethiopia. Egypt’s decision doesn’t mean compromising its water rights, but Egypt needs special capabilities in the next phase to negotiate and to hold on to its cards for pressure to not accept the dam if it harms [Egypt]. … The political administration in Egypt is aware of the serious [threat] the dam poses to Egypt’s water security. So first, we must agree on the construction and operation policies before signing any agreement to participate in the dam. [We must also] complete the technical and environmental studies to make sure that there is no harm to Egypt or Sudan. … The situation Cairo is now faced with is very complex, and the negotiating options are limited. Our position is the weakest because we are the most in need of water and because of our weak position on the African Horn after the freezing of Egyptian activity in the African Union. We have no choice but to accept the establishment of the dam.”

On the other side of the equation, the Ethiopian government announced in September that it had completed 30% of the engineering and technical preparations at the dam site and is ready to start building the main body of the dam. Sudan expressed its satisfaction with the project and asserted that the dam would protect Sudan from the floods it faces every year.

Egypt is still trying to make the best of the situation and to secure its share of annual water from the Nile as it awaits the negotiations with Ethiopia and Sudan. Egypt fears that its demands will not be met at a time when the country is experiencing internal unrest, ongoing since the July ouster of President Mohammed Morsi and affecting Egypt’s relations with neighboring African countries.

Ayah Aman is an Egyptian journalist for Al-Shorouk, specializing in Africa and the Nile Basin, Turkey and Iran and internal Egyptian social issues. On Twitter: @ayahaman

Kenya, Ethiopia Mediating on the deadly Dam on Omo River Water Controversy

October 18, 2013 in Water Crisis

Indigenous populations at Loarengak in remote northwest Kenya surrive on fish and cattle in region where survival depends on access to water from the Omo River in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is building a hydro dam that Kenyans fear threatens Kenyan livelihoods.

Indigenous populations at Loarengak in remote northwest Kenya surrive on fish and cattle in region where survival depends on access to water from the Omo River in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is building a hydro dam that Kenyans fear threatens Kenyan livelihoods.

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David Arnold

October 16, 2013

WASHINGTON — An environmental controversy surrounding the construction of Gilgel Gibe III Dam in Ethiopia’s Highlands appears to be close to resolution. Kenyan authorities have raised concerns about the dam because it is being built along Ethiopia’s Omo River which is the major source of water for Kenya’s Lake Turkana.The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) has been working with Kenyan and Ethiopian governments on developing a joint project on sustainable development of the basin.

An agreement between the two water ministries may be signed in November, said an official for UNEP in Nairobi. The draft agreement proposes joint management of all natural resources in Lake Turkana and its river basin which extends upstream into Ethiopia.

Lake Turkana defenders in Kenya anticipate an agreement could save the lake.

Turkana Lake, Gibe III Hydroelectric ProjectTurkana Lake, Gibe III Hydroelectric Project

At issue is the question of whether Ethiopia’s Gilgel Gibe 111 dam will drain upstream waters to irrigate large plantations on the Ethiopia side of the border, a move that Kenya fears will critically damage Lake Turkana, 675 kilometers downstream.  More than 80 percent of the Kenyan lake’s waters come from the Omo in Ethiopia and water levels in the lake could drop by as much as 10 meters once the dam is operational. Lake Turkana is also a World Heritage site where some of earliest evidence of man has been found and is currently home to thousands of fishermen and others who use the lake waters for their livestock.

“Our big concern is the water levels of Lake Turkana,” said Thomas Wildman, Horn of Africa director for Oxfam Great Britain. “The big question is whether Ethiopia is going to release all the water from the dam once they’ve drawn it for hydro or if they’re going to keep any of that water.”

Irrigation a major concern for Kenya

The Gilgel Gibe III is the third of three dams to be built on the Omo River and its tributaries that run south and empty into Lake Turkana across the Kenyan border. Recent Ethiopian proposals to divert Omo waters for irrigation of a major sugar plantation in the basin have alarmed officials in the administration President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“For the first time this year, the president of Kenya actually accepted that the dam has an impact on Lake Turkana,” said Akil Angelei, president of The Friends of Lake Turkana. “After years of back and forth, UNEP is trying to convene meetings to look at a way forward on the issue.”

As part of its development strategy Ethiopia is seeking to become a major source of global sugar. It is building 10 new refineries and devoting another 5 million hectares to growing sugarcane.  South Omo is to host six of those factories and half of the plantation lands.

Oxfam said the Omo River dam construction – originally identified as a hydroelectric project – is now viewed as “quite a large-scale irrigation project which could really reduce the levels and create an ecological impact on the fish populations which are a primary sources of livelihood for the people on the lake and on the floodplain for livestock.”

“We know that Ethiopia’s main drive had been not just hydro but irrigation,” said Angelei, “so we are trying highlight that we need them to look at what the entire basin needs.”

Thousands displaced by the dam 

Another issue of concern surrounding construction of the Gilgel Gibe III dam is the displacement of people.  Claudia Carr at the University of California at Berkeley reported that large numbers of Mursi people in the north of the basin and Dasanech groups along the eastern shore have already been removed by the Ethiopia government. The Dasanech occupy the northern and eastern shores of the lake and straddle both countries. Gabbra and Turkana groups live to the south and west of the lake.

More than a dozen indigenous tribes have lived in the basin for centuries, raising cattle and goats and fishing the lake. Some estimates say that beyond the 20,000 who depend directly on the lake’s waters, more than 200,000 Kenyans and Ethiopians would be impacted by a drop in lake waters.

Cattle raids and tribal clashes are frequent among the tribes such as the Rendille.  Many who study the region are concerned that reduced water flows will increase competition for water and lead to increased clashes.  Rights groups have reported that in Ethiopia many villagers been removed to provide up to 300,000 hectares in South Oromo for proposed sugar and cotton plantations.

An early champion of Lake Turkana, Kenyan paleoanthropologist and conservationist Richard Leakey said four years ago that the Gilgel Gibe III was based on flawed studies and “the dam will produce a broad range of negative effects, some of which would be catastrophic to both the environment and the indigenous communities living downstream.”

The ongoing debate focuses on an under-populated desert region where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan – and the disputed Ilema Triangle – meet. Recent news of the satellite-based discovery of a vast network ofsubterranean aquifers holding 250 billion cubic meters of fresh water could boost the fortunes of this drought-prone corner of Kenya but will not impact the future of Lake Turkana. Now the fate of the region depends on the ability of Kenya and Ethiopia to jointly manage the waters of the Omo River in the Turkana basin.