Thursday, January 22, 2015

Egypt, Ethiopia to ink 'political deal' over Nile water

Egypt and Ethiopia are expected to sign a political declaration by this end of this month regarding the Nile river water and a controversial Ethiopian dam

Egypt and Ethiopia are expected to sign a political declaration by this end of this month regarding the Nile river water and a controversial Ethiopian dam
CAIRO – Egypt and Ethiopia are expected to sign a political declaration by this end of this month regarding the Nile river water and a controversial Ethiopian dam, Egyptian political sources have said.
"The political declaration will be signed by leaders of Egypt and Ethiopia on the sidelines of the African Summit, due to be held on Jan. 29-31," one of the sources told The Anadolu Agency.
He said the declaration will include "seven points that were articulated in a previous joint statement" by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in June in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.
"In a nutshell, the declaration is a political agreement under which the two countries can reach a consensus on matters related to water usage, and that can be later translated into multiple agreements, including a legal one," the source said.
Another source close said that "the declaration will clearly stipulate respecting international laws".
During a recent meeting with Patriarch Abune Mathias of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church last week, al-Sisi stressed the need for a "legal mechanism that would preserve the rights of both countries to the waters of the Nile, secure their interests and enhance mutual cooperation."
Ethiopia and Egypt are in the middle of diplomatic rapprochement to narrow their differences over the former's construction of a multi-billion hydroelectric dam on the Nile.
The two countries agreed to resume tripartite talks – which also included downstream country Sudan – Desalegn and al-Sisi met in Equatorial Guinea in June.
Meetings of a tripartite technical committee, set up in 2011, resumed in August after an eight-month hiatus due to ongoing differences between Cairo and Addis Ababa.
In September, the tripartite committee decided to commission research firms to study trans-boundary and environmental impacts of the Ethiopian Nile dam.
Egypt says the Ethiopian dam will negatively affect its share of water from the Nile – its only source of water – while Ethiopia says the project is indispensable for its own national development and the economic welfare of its growing population.
Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Egypt Voices Concerns over Ethiopian Dam ...

This week, Egyptian leaders publically expressed their concerns over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)—an Ethiopian hydroelectric dam project that has been under construction along the Blue Nile River since May 2013. Once completed, the GERD is expected to be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, capable of delivering 6,000 megawatts of electricity to Ethiopia and its neighboring countries.
The dam project has exacerbated long-standing tensions between Ethiopia and both Egypt and Sudan, which have articulated their concerns over the effects of the dam on their water supplies since they are located downstream from the dam. On Monday this week, Alaa Yassin, a spokesperson for the Egyptian irrigation ministry, called on Ethiopia to reduce the dam's capacity of 74 billion cubic meters, which he called "unjustified" and "technically unacceptable" due to the major reduction it would have on Egypt’s water supply (according to studies performed by the ministry). The Egyptian National Planning Institute also stated recently that Egypt will need to add 21 billion cubic meters of water per year to its current water supply (of 55 billion cubic meters) in order to meet its growing water needs by 2050, making any reduction in the Blue Nile’s water supply potentially disastrous for the country.
Also on Monday, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi held talks with Mathias I, the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and stated that while he respected the right to development of the Ethiopian people, the Nile constitutes a vital “source of life” for Egyptians, so measures to protect the rights of both countries must be taken as political agreements over the dam are negotiated.
In September 2014, a tripartite commission involving leaders from Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia decided to commission a study on the possible environmental impacts of the dam. The commission is expected to meet again this month to select an international firm to conduct the study. In the meantime, Egyptian trade and foreign affairs ministers have been touring the Nile Basin region, engaging in trade talks in Nairobi this week, and will continue on to Kampala for similar talks next week. Some observers have noted that Egypt’s heightened engagement with other riparian countries might reflect its long-term strategy of rallying political support for Egypt in the row over the Ethiopian dam.

For more insight into the potential benefits and adverse effects of the GERD on the Nile River Basin, please see the following piece by AGI scholars: While Egypt Struggles, Ethiopia Builds over the Blue Nile: Controversies and the Way Forward.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Egypt rejects Ethiopia dam storage capacity

Egypt's irrigation ministry says the current capacity of the Renaissance Dam will negatively affect its water share
Ahram Online
Egypt has objected to the storage capacity of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam, currently under construction, which it fears will negatively affect its Nile water share.
Alaa Yassin, spokesperson on the Ethiopia dam issue at Egypt's irrigation ministry, called for decreasing the dam's capacity, currently set at 74 billion cubic metres, as this will have an adverse effect on Egypt’s water supply.
Yassin stated, according to state news agency MENA on Sunday, that his country's "studies" on the dam have shown that the capacity is "unjustified" and "technically unacceptable."
In October, Ethiopia said it had completed 40 percent of the construction necessary for its $4.2 billion dam project, adding that the first stage of the dam will be operational from June 2015. The 6,000 megawatt dam, set to be Africa's largest, is expected to be completed by 2017.
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have created a tripartite committee to conduct negotiations on the dam, a source of concern for Egypt.
Ethiopia is building the dam on the Blue Nile, the Nile's most significant tributary, supplying most of its water
The committee is expected to meet mid-January to choose an international firm to conduct studies on the dam's impact. This meeting has been postponed twice while some firms have withdrawn from the pool of prospective candidates to conduct the study.
In previous statements, Egyptian officials have said that there are several technical issues that could be discussed with Ethiopia should the anticipated report reveal that the dam will diminish Egypt’s water supply.
Egypt will likely need an additional 21 billion cubic metres of water per year by 2050, on top of its current 55 billion cubic metre quota, to meet the water needs of a projected population of 150 million, according to Egypt's National Planning Institute.

Ethiopia dam will turn Lake Turkana into 'endless battlefield', locals warn | Global development | The Guardian

People living near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya have little understanding that the fresh water essential to their development is likely to dry up when a huge hydoelectric dam in neighbouring Ethiopia is completed. 
An armed Turkana man walks towards the shores of Lake Turkana near a temporary fishing camp some kilometres from Todonyang near the Kenya-Ethiopia border in northwestern Kenya October 12, 2013. The Turkana are traditionally nomadic pastoralists, but they have seen the pasture that they need to feed their herds suffer from recurring droughts and many have turned to fishing. However, Lake Turkana is overfished, and scarcity of food and pastureland is fuelling long-standing conflict with Ethiopian indigenous Dhaasanac, who have seen grazing grounds squeezed by large-scale government agricultural schemes in southern Ethiopia.
 An armed Turkana man on the shore of Lake Turkana. Locals fear the completion of the Gibe III dam could exacerbate tension in the region between Kenyans and Ethiopians. Photograph: Siegfried Modola/Reuters
Fishermen, farmers, teachers and others living near the world’s largest desert lake say Turkana’s volume has reduced significantly over the past 30 years because of higher temperatures and changing weather patterns.
But few of the 100 people interviewed by a Kenyan researcher for International Rivers watchdog said they had been consulted or warned what could happen when the reservoir of the Gibe III dam, one of Africa’s largest hydropower projects, is completely filled in about three years’ time. The $1.8bn construction project, which is 90% complete, will start limited power generation in June.
The downstream impact of the dam is hotly contested. Some hydrologists have predicted that Ethiopia’s expansion of water-intensive sugar and cotton plantations on the Omo river, which the Gibe 111 dam allows, could reduce flow to Lake Turkana by up to 70%. This would kill ecosystems and greatly reduce the water level of the lake.
This, says International Rivers, could make the difference between marginal livelihoods and famine for the tens of thousands of already vulnerable people who depend on the lake for their livelihoods.
When told of the possible impact of the project, ethnic groups and communities near the lake predicted widespread conflict, hunger and cultural devastation. “If the Gibe III dam is constructed, the lake will dry up and this will lead to desertification and there will be depletion of resources: there will be no fish, no farming, and low humidity [and less rain]. If that is the case, the community will be finished,” said Sylvester Ekariman, chairman of the council of elders in Kakalel pastoral village. 
Currently, the lake, which could split into two if incoming water is restricted, helps to prevent conflict between communities in Ethiopia and Kenya, and locally between the Turkanas and the Rendille ethnic groups, who live on opposite sides of the lake. If the lake shrinks, conflict is much more likely, says the report. 
“This place will turn into an endless, uncontrollable battlefield,” said Joseph Atach, an assistant chief at Kanamkuny village.
Helen Alogita, a seed seller, told researcher Narissa Allibhai that she feared the people living on the other side of the lake. “They will come and kill us and that will bring about enmity among us as we turn on each other due to hunger. Find the person [building the dam] and ask them where they expect our communities to go? Where are our Kenyan leaders? If famine and hunger will make us die of starvation, where will they get votes from?”
Fisherman Dennis Epem said: “When the lake goes back, our enemies, which are the people of Ethiopia, will be reaching here. They have weapons, but we don’t have weapons. How will we defend ourselves when the people of Ethiopia cross? This lake is our security.” 
Many of the people interviewed in the 14 communities said they were angry that an Ethiopian dam should affect Kenyans. “Not a single country [should] harm the other one by taking its waters without discussing with the other countries, because water is life. It should not be decided by one country. Who is funding these Gibes? They should withdraw their assistance or the loans they are giving,” the researcher was told.
“Awareness of the dam’s impacts and development process is extremely low,” said Allibhai. “A majority of interviewees were extremely uninformed. Any consultations with local communities were either minimal or non-existent. People in the villages had either heard about the dam only through local NGO Friends of Lake Turkana’s awareness-raising or through rumours; misinformation was rampant.
“Those in the towns were slightly more informed, especially the few with access to the internet – but even so, not one interviewee was sure of the details of the upstream developments, agreements and progress,” she said.
A far-away view of the controversial Gibe III dam under construction in Ethiopia   s Omo valley and surrounding hills, May 2012. The government says the Gibe III dam will boost development, give access to power for many Ethiopians -- about half of the population -- currently living without it.  But critics say Ethiopia must also consider the environmental and social impact it will have on some 500,000 people living downstream and at Lake Turkana in neighbouring Kenya, who rely on the river for their livelihood.
A far-away view of the Gibe III dam under construction in Ethiopia s Omo valley and surrounding hills. Photograph: Jenny Vaughan/AFP/Getty Images
“All community members are opposed to the dam and irrigated plantations, as it will deprive them of their livelihoods and lead to increased famine, conflict and death. Their messages to the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments and the international community reflect their despair, and feelings of helplessness, anger and betrayal.”
Many older people said the developments in Ethiopia could tip the region into a crisis because climate change had made them more vulnerable. The lake was already much smaller than it was 30 years ago and villages like Impressa Beach, Lokitoenyala and Nachukui used to be under water, said locals. Rains are unpredictable and temperatures and wind have increased.
“These water grabs will disrupt fisheries and destroy other ecosystems upon which local people depend,” said Lori Pottinger, International Rivers’ Africa campaigner. “Local people have not been consulted about the project nor informed about its impacts on their lives.”
Both the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments have strongly backed the dam, which they maintain will increase development by providing more electricity. 
The Ethiopian government this week strongly rejected claims that the dam would harm Lake Turkana. A spokeswoman said: “The dam will provide a regular flow of water to Lake Turkana, which gives the possibility of providing a water supply throughout the year, whereas the lake is currently short of water in the dry season. The regular flow of water will also improve the aquatic life of Lake Turkana, providing a better livelihood for people living round the lake.
Children sitting on the Omo River bank which is slightly cracked due to the lowering of water level. Gibe III Dam, Africa's Tallest Dam with installed capacity of 1870 MW which is under construction, is said to impact 500,000 Ethiopians and Kenyans relying their lives on Omo River and Lake Turkana. The lowering of water level and the change of water salinity may especially impact aboriginal tribes who already live in severe drought and poverty, and may end the fragile peace between tribes
Children sitting on the Omo river bank, which is cracked due to falling water levels.Photograph: Alamy
“The project … is instrumental in forging regional integration – the Gibe III dam will have a role in the realisation of close economic cooperation between Ethiopia, Kenya and the countries beyond. Kenya [will] obtain more than 300MW of electricity from Ethiopia.
“Campaigners are consciously trying to distort all these positive developments … in order to incite misunderstanding between the fraternal countries of Ethiopia and Kenya.” she said.
The Kenyan government was invited to respond to the report but has so far declined.
Suggestions for action by the communities ranged from using force to stop the dam, persuading the the Kenyan government to stand up for the people of Turkana and Marsabit, pressing for donors to withdraw funding and requesting compensation.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Egypt, Ethiopia to settle dispute over Nile dam | Middle East Eye

The study aims to assess social, economic and environmental impact of the $4.8 bn project
Officials said on 29 May 2013 the giant dam project risks potential unease in Sudan and Egypt (AFP)
MEE and agencies's picture
Last update: 
Tuesday 30 December 2014 17:16 GMT
An Ethiopian Water and Energy Ministry official revealed on Monday that his country had resolved its differences with Egypt over a study commissioned to assess the likely impact of a multibillion-dollar hydroelectric dam now being built by Ethiopia on the Nile River.
Accordingly, a three-party committee on the dam – made up of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan – will soon resume discussions, Bizuneh Tolcha, head of public relations at the ministry, told The Anadolu Agency.
The project, dubbed the "Grand Renaissance Dam," has strained relations between Ethiopia and Egypt for several months.
Water-poor Egypt says the project - that is now 30 percent complete - will negatively affect its share of water from the Nile – its only source of water – while Ethiopia says the project is indispensible to its own national development and the economic welfare of its growing population.
Tolcha said that, now that the dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt over the project study had been resolved, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan would select a consultancy firm to conduct the survey.
The study will aim to assess the social, economic and environmental impact of the $4.8-bn project, a sizeable portion of which has already been completed.
The committee, known as the Tripartite National Committee, consists of four experts from each of the three countries.
It should have convened for the third time in Sudanese capital Khartoum between 4 and 6 December, but the meeting was called off due to differences between Ethiopia and Egypt over the schedule of the studies.
Egypt says the studies should not take more than five or six months, but Ethiopia – which is actively working on the project – says the studies could take as long as 18 months to complete.
Tolcha declined to provide further details about the nature of the agreement reached between Egypt and Ethiopia on the timeframe of the dam studies.
The tripartite committee held a series of meetings in the Ethiopian capital between August and September.
A meeting was also held in Cairo, during which the three states agreed on a shortlist of seven international firms to conduct the studies.  
Egypt and Ethiopia reportedly signed a deal in June regarding the controversial dam as part of an African Union summit in Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea.
The agreement saw both sides agree to “abide by the principles of international law”, according to the text published in al-Dostor al-Asly.
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