Egypt and Ethiopia Disagree on Probe of Nile Dam Impact

Egypt called for international experts to help prepare a new study on the regional impact of a $4.2 billion dam in Ethiopia, which said a team made up of officials from the two nations and Sudan is enough.

Egypt wants “trusted international consultancies” to look into how the hydropower project on a tributary of the Nile River will affect the waterway’s flow well as safety issues, Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Moteleb said after meeting his Sudanese and Ethiopian counterparts in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, on Nov. 4. Ethiopian Water and Energy Minister Alemayehu Tegenu said including such a group was unnecessary after global experts completed a report earlier this year.

“We didn’t agree on the composition of the established committee,” Alemayehu told reporters yesterday in Khartoum. “We don’t have any difference with the Sudanese, the difference we have is with the Egyptians.”

The 6,000-megawatt Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, set to be Africa’s largest when its 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. Ethiopia’s government has said it won’t pause construction or scale down the country’s most important development project. Sudan backs the dam, which will bring “many blessings and benefits for us,” Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said in June.

‘Basic’ Analysis

In a June report, a group of international experts said Ethiopia’s analysis of the dam’s downstream impact during filling and operation 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.” This week’s meeting was to discuss ways of acting on the report’s recommendations.

Egypt wants scientists from neutral countries to be involved in assessing issues including the dam’s dimensions, how it will be filled and discharged and “what will happen if it collapses,” Abdel-Moteleb said. The international experts’ report said that Ethiopia hadn’t presented analysis of the consequences of a dam collapse, although officials informed them a study was being undertaken.

Ethiopia and Sudan don’t think a panel with neutral representatives is needed to hire and oversee consultants to conduct studies recommended by experts in June, Fekahmed Negash, head of the Ethiopian Water Ministry’s Boundary and Transboundary Rivers Affairs Directorate, said by phone from Addis Ababa today. “The countries can handle it,” he said.

Officials will meet in the Sudanese capital again on Dec. 8 to try and resolve the issue, Alemayehu said.

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 through 11 countries from Burundi in the south to Egypt, where it empties into the Mediterranean Sea.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ahmed Feteha in Khartoum at afeteha@bloomberg.net; William Davison in Addis Ababa at wdavison3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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