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Energy vs Environment

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Defiant Ethiopia To Proceed With Massive Dam On The Nile River

April 11th 2011

Africa Topics - Blue Nile in Ethiopia
Blue Nile in Ethopia (Credit: Giustino)

Defiant of Egypt’s historic monopoly over its flow, Ethiopia is pushing ahead with a controversial plan to build a massive dam on the Nile river. Egypt and Sudan have maintained control of the Nile through a series of laws originally brokered by colonial powers in 1929.

But last May, six upstream countries signed a legally binding document that dispossessed Egypt of its right to veto decisions regarding the Nile’s distribution. Buoyed by President Hosni Mubarak’s recent ouster, and undaunted by criticism, Ethiopia insists that it will proceed with its plan even without international support.

At a recent news conference, Ethiopia’s Water and Energy Minister Alemayehu Tegenu explained that construction of the dam near the Ethiopian and Sudanese border is expected to start soon, Reuters reports.

This despite widespread opposition to the project, which Minister Tegenu suspects is a direct result of Egypt’s campaign to prevent the dam’s construction.

But Mr. Tegunu is adamant that Ethiopia will proceed with the $4.78 billion dollar project even without donor support. In order to finance the project, they will sell off government bonds.

At present, Ethiopia uses 1% of its annual 86% contribution of Nile water, while Egypt has access to 55 out of the river’s 84 billion cubic meter annual flow. Last year, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi signed an agreement to re-apportion the Nile, an agreement Egypt refuses to acknowledge.

The Nile Dam is expected to generate 5,250MW of hydroelectricity after its completion in approximately 44 months, contributing more than a third to the country’s $12 billion plan to generate 15,000MW within the next 25 years.

Apart from a non-renewable aquifer, Egypt relies almost exclusively on the Nile to provide for its 85 million and counting residents and is eager to maintain its control. So eager, some mutter, that this dispute could lead to war.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that Egypt is sending rebel groups into its country, but that any effort to declare war on the upstream riparian nations would result in failure.

It behooves Egypt to take diplomatic action, cede its unbalanced influence without sacrificing a reasonable percentage, and start working overtime to improve management of those water resources it does have.

Tafline Laylin writes for Green Prophet, from where this article is adapted.


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