Egypt has requested that the World Bank should be brought in to resolve tensions with Ethiopia over a massive dam on the Nile River that Egypt says threatens its water security.
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry spoke in Addis Ababa after a 10-month impasse over technical negotiations for the dam, which will be Africa’s biggest hydro-electric plant.
“Egypt has recognized the importance of economic development to Ethiopia . but science should be the determining factor on how we manage this important issue,” Shoukry said.
Egypt has recognized the importance of economic development to Ethiopia, but science should be the determining factor on how we manage this important issue
Describing the World Bank as ‘neutral and decisive’, Egypt believes the bank could facilitate negotiations ‘devoid of political interpretation and manipulation’.
Ethiopia maintains that the Grand Renaissance Dam’s construction will not reduce Egypt’s share of the river. It insists the dam is needed for development, pointing out that 60 million citizens don’t have access to electricity.
The $4 billion dam is being constructed on the Blue Nile with a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters and is expected to generate up to 6,000 megawatts of power.
Since May 2011, Cairo has voiced its concern over how the dam can reduce the country’s annual share of more than 56 billion cubic meters of Nile water.
A Tripartite National Committee on the Renaissance Dam (TNCRD) was set up to determine the project’s effects on the water flow into Egypt and Sudan.
Egypt says the last meeting of the TNCRD held in Cairo in November ‘concluded without reaching an agreement regarding the guidelines suggested by a study on the dam’s potential effects on the Nile Basin states’.
Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu said Ethiopia will consider Egypt’s new proposal and that “this dam is not going to cause any significant harm.” The project is now 63 percent complete.
Historically, Egypt has considered the Nile a national asset over which it has a natural historic right.
The use of the Nile’s water has been the subject of several agreements with countries that share the Nile including Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
Egypt’s economy is hugely agricultural-dependent and water is therefore a resource than can easily trigger conflict with the other Nile states who mostly use the Nile for infrastructure projects like mega hydro power dams.
In this particular case, while Ethiopia has said the dam is a “matter of life or death” for its people, Egypt has said water is a “matter of life or death” for his country.
The meeting comes ahead of the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s visit to Egypt next month.