“Ethiopia has repeatedly and publicly affirmed that Egypt’s water interests will not be harmed [by the construction of the Renaissance Dam] and we are following up on this,” Mohamed Idris, Egyptian ambassador in Addis Ababa, told Ahram Online on Tuesday.
Idris was speaking by phone from the Ethiopian capital after Monday's announcement by Ethiopia that it would begin work on diverting the course of the Blue Nile as part of the Renaissance Dam project.
The dam is already under construction despite requirements under international law that all Nile Basin states must agree before such a project is undertaken.
The Renaissance Dam is expected to require the storage of over 70 billion cubic metres of water from the Blue Nile that provides Egypt with over 80 percent of its annual share of Nile water – with the rest coming from Uganda.
The construction of the dam was effectively initiated some two years ago following the signing of an agreement by most upstream Nile Basin states. Ethiopia will use the dam to generate electricity to meet its expanded development needs, with extra for exports.
“We are pursuing a win-win scenario in which the interests of both sides can be served and accommodated,” Idris said.
The possibility of only mild damage to Egypt’s interests is possible because the water to be stored behind the dam will only be used to generate electricity and not for irrigation.
“There are several factors that should be taken into consideration and will be decided upon by technical experts. We are expecting Ethiopian officials to make good on their promise to act in a way that will not harm Egyptian interests,” Idris said. “It is not impossible,” he added.
A report on the possible impact of the Renaissance Dam is expected to be published this week by a committee of representatives and experts from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.
Sources close to the committee say the report will reveal some concerns over the impact of the dam on Egypt and Sudan. It is also expected to reveal concerns that cracks could develop in the dam within a few years and eventually lead to serious flooding.
Idris said he had not read the report and was not willing to speculate on its content. “We have initiated a new phase of good relations with Ethiopia since the January 25 Revolution. There is new momentum that has seen greater bilateral trade and more Egyptian investment in Ethiopia, in addition to the expansion of cooperation,” he said.
“In a positive atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation we are certainly capable of moving forward with our joint cooperation, but should the overall atmosphere take a negative turn it is unlikely that we could pursue the improvement in our mutual interests,” Idris stressed.
The construction of the dam is likely to be completed in around three years if Ethiopia manages to keep the funds flowing. So far Ethiopia says it is only using national funds. Cairo has made a point of reminding potential international donors that any aid should be consistent with international regulations that demand the full consent of all Nile Basin states for key Nile projects.
Idris is hopeful that an agreement can be reached while the dam is being constructed so both sides can manage the matter “with consideration for the development interests of both sides.”
He added, “We are in continuous consultation with Ethiopia and this will be upgraded to ensure the matter is given the fullest consideration and fulfills the interests of both nations."
Idris said the diversion of the Blue Nile is a step in the dam-construction process and the most crucial matter ahead is the pace of water storage and safety considerations.
“At the end of the day we cannot agree to anything that would harm our interests. I think this is clear and legitimate,” he added.