Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia will sign contracts for the technical studies on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) with two French companies in the near future, said the Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aaty during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Saturday.
During the meeting, Abdel Aaty reviewed the current negotiations over the construction of the GERD, pointing out that Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have agreed on the framework regulations governing the work of the two technical offices, according to a presidential statement.
He added that the regulations include the operation and storage rules with cooperation from other dams in Egypt and Sudan to guarantee that the GERD does not impact any country as agreed upon in the declaration of principles signed by the three countries.
Al-Sisi affirmed that Egypt supports the Ethiopian right to development, said the statement.
In 2015, the three countries agreed to contract French company BRL and Dutch company Deltares to conduct technical studies on the impact of the GERD on both Egypt and Sudan.
In July, Deltares withdrew from the agreement, saying in an official statement “that the conditions as imposed by the Tripartite National Committee and BRL on how the studies should be carried out did not provide sufficient guarantee for Deltares that an independent, high-quality study could be carried out”.
In December, the three countries contracted another French company, Artelia, to assist BRL in carrying out the studies.
Since then, the two companies have been preparing their preliminary studies for the offer and the requirements they will need to conduct the study on the GERD’s potential impact on all concerned countries.
Nader Noureddine, a professor of water resources, believes that one of the French companies is biased towards the Ethiopian side.
“The company is conducting other irrigation projects in Ethiopia and has no experience with rivers,” Noureddine told Daily News Egypt, adding that the Dutch office has more experience in this area.
Noureddine added that Ethiopia interfered in order to push out the Dutch company, and asked that the French company carry out 70% of the work, which raised concerns over the neutrality of the technical studies.
According to the agreement, the technical studies should take no longer than one year to be completed, with four additional months allowed to decide upon any objections.
Ethiopia is about to complete 70% of the GERD, according to statements from the minister of the Ethiopian Government Communication Affairs office Getachew Reda to the Saudi, London-based, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat in May. The Italian company currently constructing it will start its first filling process in July 2017, which then will be delivered to the Ethiopian side in October 2017. The dam is expected to be completed by the time the French companies deliver the technical studies.
Noureddine also said that the studies are just consolatory and will not obligate the Ethiopian side to change anything. “It is a waste of time,” he added.
The studies geographic limits end at the Aswan High Dam; however, the GERD will have an impact on the Egyptian share of water and fisheries behind the Aswan High Dam that will not be taken into consideration, according to Noureddine.
In an interview with the Saudi, London-based newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, the Ethiopian minister of the Government Communication Affairs Office (GCAO) Getachew Reda confirmed last month that his country is about to finish 70% of construction of the controversial dam.
Reda added that the technical studies have nothing to do with the current construction.
“The dam is being built, and this will not be affected by the report, but if there is anyone who believes that he would be affected after carrying out the study, then it is not our problem in Ethiopia,” Reda said.
Egyptian foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zaid said the Egyptian embassy obtained a comment from Reda that the statements attributed to him are not accurate.
“Ethiopia is committed to the declaration of principles signed with Egypt and Sudan regarding the renaissance dam,” he added.
The GERD has strained relations between Ethiopia and Egypt since construction began in 2011, with relations reaching their lowest point in 2013.