Nile can be a source of bilateral cooperation: Ethiopian minister

MENA, Thursday 20 Jun 2013

Ethiopian officials look to soothe Egyptian fears over Nile dam project, while Egyptian expert warns that the dam will dramatically reduce Egypt's water share

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – (Photo: Reuters)

Ethiopia strongly believes that Egypt's and Ethiopia's interests are highly compatible and that the Nile River can be source of cooperation between the two countries, Ethiopian State Minister for Foreign Affairs Berhane Gebre-Christos said.

The Ethiopian minister stated in an interview published by the Ethiopian Herald newspaper that the Nile water, if used according to the principle of joint benefit, is more than enough for all of the Nile Basin countries.

"Ethiopia completely understands Egypt's reliance on the Nile River water. We expect that Egypt will understand that Ethiopia has the right to use its resources," he added.

Ethiopia, according to the minister, has in the past lost millions of its citizens to famine and it is now looking for new ways forward.

Ethiopia diverted the Blue Nile, a tributary of the Nile, in May as part of the preparations for the building of a hydroelectric dam, which if completed will be the largest in the continent. Egypt, downstream from the planned dam, expressed concerns that the completed dam will decrease its share of the Nile waters.

According to the state-run MENA agency, Egyptian dam expert Alaa El-Zawahry stated in a lecture on Wednesday that the technical reports on the effects of the dam carried out by Ethiopia are conflicted and did not follow the standard procedures.

El-Zawahry, who is also a member of the tripartite committee tasked with studying the potential impact on downstream states of the dam project, stated that Ethiopia failed to provide any proof that the dam will not harm Egypt.

According to El-Zawahry, if Egypt goes ahead with building the dam, Egypt's Nile water share will decrease from 55 million cubic metres to 40 million, preventing Egypt's High Dam from generating electricity.

"For every acre Ethiopia plants, an acre will be destroyed in Egypt because of the decrease in Egypt's water share. Agricultural land in Egypt will decrease by thirty percent," El-Zawahry declared.

El-Zawahry ended his lecture saying that Egypt might approve the building of a dam by Ethiopia if it were to hold 14 billion cubic metres of water, which will generate more electricity than the Egypt's High Dam. However, according to El-Zawahry, Egypt will not approve the 74 billion cubic metre dam which is currently in the early stages of construction, as it will diminish Egypt's share of the waters.

Egypt's foreign minister visited Ethiopia earlier this week to discuss the issue with his Ethiopian counterpart. Reports suggested that talks were positive, and both foreign ministers have agreed to another series of talks to further investigate the effect of the Ethiopian dam on Egypt.

Egypt has been trying to reduce diplomatic tensions between the two countries, which reached a height after a televised meeting between President Morsi and Egyptian political figures shed a negative light on Egypt's stance towards the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. At the meeting, some political figures suggested covertly funding Ethiopian rebels to destroy the dam and other forms of espionage against the African state. 

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