Friday,24 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1366, (26 October - 1 November 2017)
Friday,24 November, 2017
Issue 1366, (26 October - 1 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

No progress on impact studies

While downstream countries still await the completion of impact studies on the effect of the Renaissance Dam on the flow of Nile water, 62 per cent of the structure has been completed, writes Doaa El-Bey

 

No progress on impact studies
No progress on impact studies

Yet another tripartite meeting between Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese officials, combined with visits to the site of the Renaissance Dam, has failed to resolve the simmering dispute over the completion of impact studies.

That said, last week’s visit by the Egyptian, Sudanese and Ethiopian irrigation ministers to the dam was “a positive confidence building step”, argues former assistant foreign minister Mohamed Higazi.

Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati headed Egypt’s delegation which visited the site to observe construction and explore technical details related to the work of the tripartite technical committee. The visit was organised by the Ethiopian government. The delegation was joined by Sudan’s Minister of Water Resources Moetaz Moussa and his Ethiopian counterpart Sileshi Bekele.

Nader Noureddin, a professor of agricultural resources at Cairo University, criticised the trip which he said was tantamount to an official acknowledgment that the construction was legitimate.

“Any visit should have been made by the technical committee as the party responsible for following up on the technical details of the dam,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Noureddin says Addis Ababa was obviously keen to capitalise on the visit with many Ethiopian websites posting pictures of officials at the site.

“Ethiopia used the occasion to signal its transparency over the project at a time when Addis Ababa is refusing to disclose the information needed to conduct studies on the impact of the dam on downstream countries,” he said.

On the day of the three ministers’ visit to the dam Ethiopia announced 62 per cent of construction was complete and electricity generation will start before the middle of next year.

The visit came a day before a tripartite meeting in Ethiopia which ended without any progress being made on completing technical studies on the possible impact of the dam on Egypt and Sudan.

Egyptian officials at the meeting should have insisted Ethiopia reveal the reasons for the delay in issuing the final report and set a definite date for its publication, says Noureddin.

Studies were scheduled to begin in August 2016, with preliminary reports being issued every three months and a final report after 11 months, says Noureddin. “Instead, after 13 months, we have seen just one preliminary report.”

“The reason for the delay is Ethiopia’s reluctance to provide the information needed to conduct the studies.”

The preliminary report on the planned studies was issued by the French consultants BRL and Artelia in March. The two firms have been commissioned to study the hydrological, environmental and economic impact of the dam on Egypt and Sudan.

The three countries agreed not to disclose the details of the preliminary report though leaks suggest it pointed out possible negative impacts of the dam.

“Why are these details not disclosed? It is the right of the people to know the impacts,” says Noureddin.

The preliminary report was discussed at a tripartite meeting held in Sudan in mid-September.

The latest meeting was the 15th held by the technical committee.

The technical committee consists of 12 members, four from each of the three countries.

Egypt has long been worried over the tripartite technical committee’s lack of progress. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri expressed his concerns to his Ethiopian counterpart Workineh Gebeyehu on the sidelines of African Union preparatory meetings in June this year. Later in September, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Shoukri reiterated Cairo’s worries about the failure to complete the technical studies.

Gebeyehu, meanwhile, stressed that his country is committed to the 2015 declaration of principles signed by Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

The Declaration of Principles states that Ethiopia should not begin filling the dam’s reservoir until the studies are conducted.

Addis Ababa says that when complete the dam will generate 6,000-megawatts of electricity. Cairo, however, fears it will reduce Egypt’s share of Nile water which provides 95 per cent of the country’s water needs.

The River Nile could be the focus for cooperation rather than dispute, argues Higazi.

“If cooperation between the three countries develops in an integrated manner many projects could be established. Water will be just one aspect of cooperation,” he said.

According to Higazi, wider cooperation — including linking Egypt and Ethiopia via roads, railway and power grids — would serve to harmonise relations, reduce tension and boost political understanding.

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