Ethiopia Dam Could Lead To ‘Disaster’ For Egypt: Irrigation Minister

Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mohamed Bahaa El-Din on Tuesday said that Ethiopia’s planned Grand Renaissance Dam project was sure to negatively affect the electricity-generating capacity of Egypt’s High Dam.

At a meeting between electricity ministry officials and members of Egypt’s Shura Council (the upper house of parliament), Bahaa El-Din asserted that the Ethiopian dam – especially during periods of water scarcity – would lead to a “disaster” for Egypt, Al-Ahram’s Arabic-language news website reported.

The Grand Renaissance Dam project has been a source of concern for the Egyptian government, which has voiced fears that the project – if completed – could negatively impact Egypt’s supply of Nile water.

“We will not allow anyone to touch Egypt’s share of Nile water, which is a matter of life and death for Egypt,” said Bahaa El-Din, going on to stress Egypt’s lack of alternative water resources.

The minister went to say that Egypt had never agreed to the dam’s construction, pointing out that, “in times of shrinking water resources,” Egypt would seek to raise its share of Nile water and “not allow for its reduction.”

Last week, in the immediate wake of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s visit to Ethiopia, Addis Ababa began diverting a part of the Blue Nile in preparation for the dam’s construction.

Most of Egypt’s annual allotment of Nile water, which – according to a colonial-era water-sharing treaty – stands at 55 billion cubic metres, comes from the Blue Nile. The decades-old water-sharing agreement gives Egypt, along with Sudan, the lion’s share of Nile water.

In 2010, Egypt and Sudan refused to sign on to the Entebbe Agreement – signed between Ethiopia and five other Nile Basin countries – which sought to reallocate Nile waters on a more equitable basis. Signatories argued that the old agreement had been written by colonial powers and unfairly favoured Egypt and Sudan.

‘Inconclusive’ report

Meanwhile, a trilateral technical committee – consisting of experts from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia – announced this week that its long-awaited report was “inconclusive” as to the planned dam’s effects on Egypt and Sudan.

What’s more, Hussein Zayed, Shura Council MP for the Wasat Party, said that Tuesday’s meeting with the irrigation and electricity ministers had failed to provide any additional information.

Following the meeting, Zayed told Al-Ahram that Shura Council members had accused the government of “lacking a clear vision”while consistently claiming that it had a plan to deal with the crisis.

A Monday meeting between President Morsi and opposition figures further complicated the issue after some meeting participants – unaware the meeting was being aired on live television – recommended covert means of thwarting the dam’s construction.

One meeting participant, liberal politician Ayman Nour, proposed feigning plans for an Egyptian military strike on Ethiopia in an effort to pressure Addis Ababa to reach a compromise solution.

According to one of Morsi’s top aides, the meeting had not originally been planned to be aired on live television.

Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam is one of four dams planned along the course of the Blue Nile.