Ex-irrigation minister says Egypt not proactive enough on Ethiopian dam

Ahram Online, Wednesday 5 Mar 2014

Mohamed Nasr El-Deen says Egypt is only reacting, and too little, too late, on the risks Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam poses to its water security

thiopia's Great Renaissance Dam is constructed in Guba Woreda, some 40 km (25 miles) from Ethiopia's border with Sudan, June 28, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

Former Minister of Irrigation Mohamed Nasr El-Deen said in a press conference that Egypt is not being proactive enough about the risks of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam.

The conference took place Wednesday in Cairo, organised by the liberal Free Egyptians Party and Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

Nasr El-Deen believes that one of the main problems in Egypt's response to the Renaissance Dam is that the steps taken to resolve the issue are reactive. He added that Egypt's reactions are always either late or indecisive.

Nasr El-Deen said that the information Egypt has about Nile Basin countries is neither enough nor up to standard.

"Egypt is experiencing an acute shortage of qualified technical manpower, as a consequence of limited training programmes, weak financial incentives and a lack of education in universities and research centres," he stated.

Nasr El-Deen also said that the Free Egyptians Party, along with some university professors, ore about to found a non-governmental organisation, which will be known as the Egyptian Council for Water.

The NGO is supposed to conduct studies and analyse technical, economic, legal, political and funding issues required to maintain the interests of Egypt in the Nile River.

The NGO will also work to support strategic relations with Sudan.

Nasr El-Deen pointed out that Ethiopia has succeeded in imposing its own agenda on negotiations that have been taking place on the Renaissance Dam.

Amr Moussa, head of the outgoing 50-Member Committee tasked with amending Egypt's 2012 Constitution, was among attendees of the press conference.

Moussa believes that Egypt has been taking all diplomatic procedures to halt the construction of the Ethiopian dam.

Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam project is a $4.2 billion hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, one of the main tributaries of the Nile.

The project has been a source of concern for the Egyptian government since May last year, when images of the dam's construction stirred public anxiety about its possible effects on Egypt's share of Nile water.

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan formed a tripartite technical committee to study the possible effects of the dam and try to generate consensus on the project. Ethiopia maintains that Egypt's water share will not be negatively affected by the successful completion of the dam.

On Monday, present Irrigation Minister Mahmoud Abdel-Muttalib denounced on what he described as Ethiopia's obstinacy towards building the Renaissance Dam.

He also said that Egypt may send an official statement demanding that construction of the Ethiopian dam be halted until a mutually agreeable solution is found.

Egypt has repeatedly demanded that Ethiopia submit construction plans for the dam for assessment by international experts.

However, Ethiopian Irrigation Minister Alamayo Tegno said his country is committed to the recommendations of an international committee of experts.

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