African Water Ministers Meet to Discuss Studies of Ethiopian Dam

Aug 26, 2014 5:44 am ET

Aug. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Water ministers from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan began discussing studies to determine what impact an Ethiopian hydropower dam being built on the main tributary of the Nile River will have on the two downstream countries.

A panel of experts from the three nations may be formed at the meeting in Sudan to oversee investigations into the hydrological, social and environmental effects of the $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry said on its website yesterday, citing Water, Energy and Irrigation Minister Alemayehu Tegenu.

Egypt, which relies on the world’s longest river for almost all its water, has expressed concern that it will suffer shortages as the dam’s reservoir is being filled and during the operation of a 6,000-megawatt power plant. Ethiopia says the project won’t significantly harm Sudan or Egypt and is based on a principle of “equitable utilization” of the Nile basin.

A panel of specialists, including four international experts, concluded last year that the additional studies were needed to assess the dam’s impact on the Nile’s flow and the region. Ethiopia and other upstream African nations say that Egypt’s historic legal claims to a majority of the river’s flow are invalid and have harmed their development.

Ethiopia has completed 35 percent of the project that officially began in April 2011 and is scheduled for completion by mid-2017, Zadig Abraha, the deputy head of a fundraising council for the dam, said by phone today from the capital, Addis Ababa.