The Chair in Water Resources at the Regional Office of UNESCO in Khartoum, Abdullah Abdel Salam, cited an unpublished study conducted by Ethiopian researchers that details the possible negative effects on downstream countries that will result from the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile.
The planned construction is part of a wider development project by the Ethiopian government to expand its hydroelectric power capacity, with projections estimating an augmentation of 5,000 MW of electricity to service the estimated 83% without electricity. However, conflict has arisen from a potential divergence from precedents set by previous trans-border water management agreements and the fear of enforced water scarcity in downstream countries: Egypt and Sudan.
In responding to this conflict, Abdel Salam asked leaders of the Eastern Nile Basin countries— Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia— to hold a summit to resolve the dispute while also calling for international mediation between the respective parties.
“A meeting of Ministers of Water Resources and Irrigations won’t succeed in reaching real solutions to this crisis”, said Abdel Salam.
“We welcome any Arab or International mediation because the issue is very serious, and the repercussions of the crisis is [sic] much more serious than we imagine”.
In the same press conference, Abdel Salam noted a study that confirms Ethiopia’s awareness of the possible averse impact the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam would cause Egypt and the High Aswan Dam. Abdel Salam pointed out that Ethiopia is planning to build several more dams to generate electricity, in addition to the Renaissance Dam, which will increase the risk of water scarcity to the downstream countries.
According to the Center for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE), Egypt’s share of the Blue Nile’s water supply has been an average of 55.5bn cubic metres per year for the past 50 years when Egypt’s population was less than 30 million. Abdel Salam cited population growth in the downstream countries and the increasing stress it would place on the trans-border infrastructure as legitimate concerns in opposition to Ethiopia’s hydroelectric project.
Abdel Salam suggested that an appeal should be made to recourse to an objective international study whose findings would be binding for all parties.
Beyond this appeal to an international study, there is a general concern that the conflict will become militarised. However, former Egyptian minister of water resources and irrigation, Mohamed Nasr El-Din Allam, emphasised that there is no possibility of the existence of a military option to resolve the crisis as Egypt is committed to finding a political solution.
Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hossam El-Moghazy is on a visit to Uganda, that began on Tuesday to discuss joint-cooperation projects, after the failure of the tripartite meeting between Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia.
This diplomatic visit aims to develop projects that recuperate Nile water lost to lakes, in an effort to offset some of the shortfall of water that may occur due to the Renaissance Dam. It also aims at the implementation of water projects within the Nile Basin countries in the South, which includes Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Kenya.
El-Moghazy said in press statements Monday that Egypt is committed to providing logistical assistance to the Nile Basin countries, including Uganda, while also implementing a project to protect the Kisasa province, located at the west of the country, from the effects of floods. The project’s cost is estimated to be $5.1m and will be implemented by the Arab Contractors Company for the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources of Uganda.