Egypt to 'reconsider' position on Nile Basin cooperation

Ahram Online, Sunday 19 Oct 2014

Irrigation minister says Egypt will look again at Eastern Nile Basin cooperation amid talks on the possible effects of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt will reconsider its stance on Eastern Nile Basin cooperation, Irrigation Minister Hossam Moghazi has said.

At a press conference on Sunday, Moghazi's Sudanese counterpart Motaz Moussa invited him to reflect again upon cooperation between the two countries and Ethiopia.

"Sudan thinks this [cooperation] agreement is important, vital and strategic. I ask Egypt to re-examine it so we can press forward with what serves our collective benefit," Moussa said. "[Our country] believes that Egypt is an essential pillar in this cooperation."

Eastern Nile Basin cooperation was first initiated in 2010, but was suspended due to disagreements between the three states.

The cooperation is over the utilisation of Nile water resources.

Moghazi said he hoped the three countries would reach a new legal agreement soon amid ongoing talks on Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam project, which Egypt fears will affect its water supply.

Tripartite talks between Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese irrigation ministers took place in Cairo last week.

In an interview with CBC satellite channel on Saturday, Moghazi said he did not oppose Ethiopia's aspirations to build the dam, but Egypt has concerns about its capacity.

"Egypt learned in the past that the dam's capacity would be 14 billion cubic meters. However, now we know it is 74 billion cubic meters, and it causes real harm," he said.

He further explained that this would negatively affect water storage and its "water security," adding that the two nations were trying to meet halfway.

Moghazi added that Egypt would not opt at the moment for international arbitration as negotiations are underway on the Renaissance dam.

Moussa told CBC that his country, which is home to both a source and an estuary of the Nile, is used to neighbouring countries' water storage demands and has been prepared for years for more positional dams.

"We were prepared based on scientific and not emotional standards... So Sudan's stance was balanced from the start and its vision was clear," Moussa said.

He added, however, that although his country does not oppose the Grand Renaissance Dam, it remains committed to assessing the effects of the dam, whether positive or negative.   

In the first round of talks, held last month in Addis Ababa, Egyptian officials said a breakthrough had been reached in discussions despite the fact that many issues concerning the construction of the Ethiopian dam remained unresolved.

Some 40 percent of the dam has already been built, Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome said earlier this month.

According to Egypt's National Planning Institute, Egypt will likely need an additional 21 billion cubic metres of water per year by 2050 – on top of its current 55 billion cubic metre quota – to meet the water needs of a projected population of 150 million.


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