A general view shows construction activity on the Grand Renaissance dam in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz region March 16, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
The National Panel of Experts linked to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has slammed the International Rivers Network (IRN) for criticising the Renaissance Dam project, accusing the body of being biased and supporting Egypt against the dam.
The panel accused, in a statement issued Thursday, the US-based environmental organisation "of subverting Ethiopia’s efforts to develop its water resources and lift its vast and growing population out of poverty." It accused the IRN of being paid by Egypt in order to lobby against the Renaissance Dam internationally.
"Again, the IRN never loses opportunity to lobby for its Egyptian paymasters. Not only does the IRN talk about the 'oversize' of GERD, but also about the Egyptians’ negative emotions over GERD: anger and fear."
The IRN issued 31 March 2014 a statement about Renaissance Dam along with a leaked version of the report of the tripartite technical committee assigned to study the probable impact of the dam on Egypt and Sudan issued last year.
"One international dam expert who has seen the report states that it shows that construction on the project is proceeding on an aggressively accelerated schedule with little room for adjusting key elements of dam design to reduce harm or prevent problems," the IRN said in its statement.
The environmental NGO called on Ethiopia to halt construction of the dam until studies on the impact of the dam on the downstream countries are continued.
The IRN added that it would work on keeping international donors from investing in the GERD project while providing alternatives to Ethiopia for water and land reclamation.
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan formed a tripartite technical committee to study the probable effects of the Renaissance Dam. But the committee's discussions were thwarted in December when Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir announced his support for the dam during a meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
Talks between Ethiopia and Egypt broke down in recent months. Yet officials from both countries insist they will continue to hold talks in order to solve the dispute over the dam. Earlier this month, the foreign ministers of both Egypt and Ethiopia held talks in Brussels on the dam.
Founded in 1985 as an international NGO, the International Rivers Network is an environmental anti-dam organisation that aims to protect rivers and local communities that depend on those rivers. The US based organisation is known internationally for its stances against dams in general.