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Ethiopia’s Plan to Build New Dams Raises Tension with Cairo

Ethiopia’s Plan to Build New Dams Raises Tension with Cairo

Wednesday, 2 June, 2021 - 09:45
A handout satellite image shows a view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Ethiopia on July 20, 2020. (AFP)

A statement by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Addis Ababa’s plan to build many dams across the country has exacerbated tensions with Egypt.

Cairo denounced the announcement, stressing that it “reveals Addis Ababa’s bad faith.”

Ethiopia thinks the Nile River and other rivers it shares with neighboring countries are subject to its sovereignty alone, the Foreign Ministry noted.

It said all water projects should be established after coordination and agreement with the possibly affected countries.

Earlier this week, Ahmed said Addis Ababa plans to build more than 100 small and medium dams in various areas across the country in the upcoming fiscal year.

An Egyptian-Ethiopian dispute was sparked in 2011 when Addis Ababa began constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile.

Egypt and Sudan stress the need to reach a binding and comprehensive agreement on the dam’s filling and operation to guarantee the rights and interests of the three countries.

They also say the deal should include a mechanism for settling disputes on the filling and operation of the dam.

They fear the potential negative impact of GERD on the flow of their annual share of the Nile’s 55.5 billion cubic meters of water.

The African Union (AU) has been sponsoring the so far faltered talks between Cairo, Addis Ababa and Khartoum since July 2020, despite the intervention of international actors such as the United States and the European Union with observers.

Egypt and 10 other downstream countries share the Nile basin, yet more than 85 percent of its share comes from the Blue Nile tributary in Ethiopia.

Cairo has repeatedly stressed its consent for Basin countries to benefit from the Nile River by implementing projects and achieving development for their peoples.

However, it underscores the importance of coordination and consultation among countries that might be affected by the water facilities and projects.

Ethiopia announced it still had plans to move forward with the second phase of filling the mega-dam when the rainy season begins in July.

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