Ethiopian hydropower Nile project alarms Egypt

Ahram Online , Monday 14 Mar 2011

Prime Minister Zenawi's announcement that Ethiopia is set to build a much needed dam on the Nile is met with a floundering policy of denial and flattery by Egyptian Nile official

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, in a statement to Bloomberg, announced that Ethiopia will launch a hydropower plant project in the next few weeks.

This statement comes after a Nile treaty is set for ratification by six African nations excluding Egypt and Sudan to their dismay and disappointment.

The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), a body formed by Ethipia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and lately Burundi, intends to legislate an agreement to allow Nile river diversions and projects to be implemented without prior consent from down-stream countries like Egypt.

Egypt has Veto power over decisions by up-stream countries on Nile water matters due to treaties signed in the 20s and 50s.

The addition of Burundi to the NBI makes the signatories six, the number required for a ratification of a treaty that might strip Egypt of its long-held power over Nile waters.

Abdul Fattah Motawi', head of Department of Nile Waters in the Egyptian ministry of irrigation called in a meeting to discuss the Nile Basin situation after the signing of Burundi with the NBI.

According to Shorouk newspaper, a source in the ministry of irrigation said that the technical committee following the case is frustrated with Motawi''s approach to the issue.

According to the committee, Motawi' is denying any serious risks for the building of the Ethiopian dam on Egyptian shares of Nile water.

Motawi' is allegedly dealing with the situation along the lines of the old regime, by trying to shrink the ability of Ethiopia to complete the project and sending lavish gifts to the Ethiopian irrigation minister, Shorouk’s source says.

Tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia were highest last November, when Zenawi’s statements promoted a possible war with Egypt to settle water issues.

Egypt was able to calm the situation, and the NBI was to meet to discuss the Egyptian reservations this January, a meeting that was postponed due to the Egyptian uprising.

Egypt claims no Nile country may embark on any projects without the consent of all Nile Basin countries.

The plant to be constructed close the Sudanese border should generate 6,000 megawatts of power, largely needed by Africa’s second most populous nation suffering from frequent power outages.

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