Monday, June 3, 2013

Ethiopia's Controversial Renaissance Dam: Egyptian and Sudanese Reaction

Recent events have led to an outpouring of commentary on Ethiopia's controversial Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile about 13 kilometers from the Sudanese border.  When completed in 2016, it will be one of the largest dams in the world and have an electrical generating capacity of about 5,250 MW.   The Ethiopian government provided a description of the project in a summary titled "Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam."

Recent criticism of the project in Egypt followed President Mohammed Morsi's discussions with Ethiopian officials in Addis Ababa at the end of May, a slight diversion of the Blue Nile at the location of the dam in order to move forward with construction and the delivery of a report on the Renaissance Dam to the governments of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt by a Tripartite Commission of Experts from the three countries.  The complete report has not yet been made available publicly.  Egypt published a brief summary of the report, which may highlight only the negative conclusions.  See "Egypt Presidency Issues Summary of Tripartite Report on Ethiopia Dam" in Ahram Online dated 3 June 2013.

While most senior Egyptian officials have been fairly restrained so far in their response to construction of the Renaissance Dam, some opposition political leaders and elements of the Egyptian press have unleashed harsh criticism of Ethiopia for going forward with the project.  This flavor is conveyed in al-Hayat's report titled "Ethiopian Dam Project Raises Fears of Water Deficit in Egypt" and the Associated Press report titled "Egyptians Up in Arms as Ethiopia Builds Giant Dam on Nile River; Minister Rules Out War."

Interestingly, Sudan, the other downstream country from the Renaissance Dam, has been generally supportive of the project.  President Omer al-Bashir announced in March 2012 his support, saying his government understands the mutual benefits the project could offer in the form of electricity and flood control.  The Sudanese reaction is contained in a 30 May 2013 report in the Sudan Tribune titled "Sudan Downplays Negative Impact of Ethiopian Dam Project."  On the other hand, Haider Yusuf Bakheit, an expert in Sudan's Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources expressed concerns about the project in an article in the Sudan Vision titled "Millennium Dam: A Report on the Ethiopian Dam, Its Impact on Sudan."

Left out of this discussion is the use of science in making more effective use of Nile water resources and even the use of desalinization, which is expensive, in those countries that have access to the sea.  A 30 May 2013 article titled "Israel Cuts Water Shortages with Huge Leaps in Desalination" notes that Israel now obtains about 40 percent of its water needs by desalinization.

What the current situation requires is the public release of the entire report of the Tripartite Commission of experts, a more informed public discussion, and a dialing down of the rhetoric.

1 comment:

  1. Sir,

    Sudan Vision's post titled "Millennium Dam: A Report on the Ethiopian Dam, Its Impact on Sudan" is one or more year old.
    They republished it cutting the its last section to get traffic or to confuse I suppose.