Ethiopia will on Tuesday begin diverting the course of the Blue Nile, one of the Nile River’s two major tributaries, as part of its project to build a new dam, Turkish news agency Anadolu reported.
The move, which was called "historic" by Ethiopian government spokesperson Bereket Simon, will outrage Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream, because it will negatively affect their water quotas, Anadolu added.
The Renaissance Dam is one of four dams that could be built along the Blue Nile, one of the two branches of the Nile River, which provides Egypt with around 60 percent of its annual 55 billion cubic metres of Nile water.
Egypt’s former minister of irrigation Nasreddin Allam said the move should have been predicted by the Egyptian government or at least monitored by satellites, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported on Tuesday.
According to Allam, Ethiopia brought forward its plan to divert the Blue Nile, which was scheduled to begin in September, to preempt a report by a committee of experts from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia - due at the end of May - on the impact of the Renaissance Dam on Egypt and Sudan.
On Monday, Ethiopia's Foreign Minister Gebre-Christos said the dam, which is under construction and will be able to store 84 million cubic metres of Nile water, would be used exclusively for power generation and would not reduce Egypt's share of Nile water.
The under-construction Renaissance Dam has been a source of concern for the Egyptian government.
Egypt will need an additional 21 billion cubic metres of water per year by 2050, on top of its current 55 billion metres quota, to meet the water needs of a projected population of 150 million people, according to Egypt's National Planning Institute.