Wednesday, April 02, 2014
ADDIS ABABA – Alemayehu Tegenu, Ethiopian minister of water, irrigation and energy, has stated his country’s readiness to open talks with Egypt over Ethiopia’s multibillion-dollar hydroelectric dam project, which Cairo fears will threaten its traditional share of Nile water.
Speaking at a ceremony held to mark the passage of three years since construction on the mega-dam began, Tegenu said his government had “exerted utmost efforts to build trust among all riparian countries.”
“But Egypt has continued to engage in negative campaigning against the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam,” Tegenu said.
He also criticized Egyptian demands to include additional international representatives on a panel of experts tasked with studying the dam’s potential impact on downstream states.
The committee currently contains two members each from Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, along with four others representing the international community.
Egypt, Tegenu said, was “determined to delay the tripartite engagement by withdrawing from the Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt forum.”
He added: “We urge Egypt to re-join the engagement and work for the benefits of our countries.”
Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, also speaking at the ceremony, said the expert panel’s findings had confirmed that the dam’s construction met international standards of efficiency and safety.
Mekonnen added that Sudan had publicly declared its support for the dam, going on to describe the project as a “correction” of previous unjust water-sharing agreements.
“The rule of the game of unjust utilization of the waters of the Nile is over,” he said.
The dam, Mekonnen said, “symbolizes Ethiopia’s determination and ability to get back to its ancient civilization and glory.”
The ceremony, held at the construction site 980km northwest of Addis Ababa and carried live on local television and radio, was attended by officials, diplomats, religious leaders and public figures.
Ethiopia is building the $6.4-billion dam on the Blue Nile, which represents Egypt’s primary source of water. When finalized in 2017, it will have a 6000-megawatt production capacity, according to government sources.
Over 30 percent of construction work on the dam has already been completed, officials say.
The project has raised alarm bells in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, which fears a reduction of its historical share of Nile water.
Water distribution among Nile basin states has long been regulated by a colonial-era treaty giving Egypt and Sudan the lion’s share of river water.
Citing its need for development, Ethiopia says it must build a series of dams to generate electricity, both for local consumption and export.
Addis Ababa insists the new dam will benefit downstream states Sudan and Egypt, both of which will be invited to purchase the electricity thus generated.
Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency