Will Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam dry the Nile in Egypt?

 

Ethiopia is pressing ahead with construction of a major new dam on the River Nile, despite stiff opposition from Egypt. BBC correspondents in both countries report from both sides of an increasingly bitter water dispute.

Emmanuel Igunza, Ethiopia

A vast section of northern Ethiopia has been turned into a giant building site.

Construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (known as Gerd) is now about 30% complete.

The whole project spans an area of 1,800 sq km (695 sq miles).

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Once completed, in three years, it will be Africa’s largest hydropower dam, standing some 170m (558ft) tall.

At a cost of $4.7bn (£2.9bn) it will also be hugely expensive – mostly funded by Ethiopian bonds and taxpayers.

The dam is located in the Benishangul region, a vast, arid land on the border with Sudan, some 900km north-west of the capital Addis Ababa,

Temperatures here can get as high as 48C (118F). Most of the vegetation that existed on the dam site has been cleared to make way for the construction, and the area is now extremely dusty.

In May last year, the builders achieved their first milestone when they diverted the course of the Blue Nile.

 

What used to be the river bed is now being lined with layers and layers of concrete that will form part of the main dam.

 

Some 8,500 people working at the site, where construction carries on 24 hours a day.

 

Part of the actual dam structure is already taking shape. The workers are busy at work on what looks like a huge floor of concrete.

Downstream, Egypt – which relies almost totally on the waters of the Nile, says their supply will be under threat.

Egypt and Sudan currently get the lion’s share of the Nile’s waters under colonial-era treaties. While Sudan backs Ethiopia’s plans, Egypt has remained opposed.

Talks to ease tensions between the two countries have collapsed.

Despite this, Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Amb Dina Mufti describes the dam as a “win-win” project.

“Sudan has already seen the benefits and has come on board, we hope Egypt will see that too,” he says.

Sally Nabil, Aswan, Egypt

The concern in Egypt is about the potential threat to its dominance over the Nile.

Egypt fears Ethiopia’s dam will restrict the flow of this strategic waterway – the main source of water in a country where rainfall is scarce.

The row started in 2011, and Egypt has been worried ever since that its annual quota of the Nile water might be reduced.

This conflict comes at a time when different parts of Egypt are already suffering from a shortage of water. In the northern Nile Delta, the agricultural heart of Egypt, a lot of farmers are waiting with a heavy heart to see if they will be able to cultivate their land next summer.

“With even less water, we will die. We can’t survive,” says Hafiza, one of the farmers.

Ethiopia says its hydro-electric dam will not harm either of its downstream countries, Egypt or Sudan. However, Egypt is highly sceptical.

“It is a matter of life or death, a national security issue that can never be compromised on,” says foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty.

Egypt is aware that some 30% of the Ethiopian dam is completed. It is still unclear what’s Egypt’s next step will be.

Originally appeared on BBC.

14 thoughts on “Will Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam dry the Nile in Egypt?

  1. The most thing that Egyptian must know it,the colonial agreement gave to Egypt as “Lion share ” what does mean ? Lets consider it as oil or other mineral resource it is belong to one’s country but we Ethiopian are not saying to use all just we are saying we have to use it equally. On Egyptian side fear on their water share ,this good but they have know” Win- win ” There are Excellent Egyptian Scholar who Know well about GERD which has not deceased the Egyptian water share.
    In 21 century crisis resolve with scientific idea but The arrogant Egyptian try to use power to stop the construction of the dam. These means interfere on one’s country matter. it is illegal to do things like that.
    Ethiopia has been constructing the dam for Electricity only not for irrigation purpose. I know we have a right to do every thing but we don’t have to aim to arrest the flow of water.
    According to agreement it was not include Ethiopia,so it not suppose to respect it. “It must be notify Egypt ” hahaha what are they? are they” God or Supper power” They do not learn from history.

  2. the renaissance dam is the brand of nation . not only to the nation but also to the African continent. it is the gift of the 21st generation. our dam is our resource and sovereignty. we stretch our hands to use the water together in scientific way . otherwise enough is enough

  3. It is irrational to say someone don`t breath while I am exercising it!! For us constructing the DAM is also a matter of existence.

  4. it is not building dam that threats Egypt’s water supply, but drought and deforestation. so that it has to work on afforesting Ethiopian highlands and mountains, unless it will permanently lose Nile if the drought continues in those high lands, the dam that we are building also serves for Egypt as a reserve for water so that rather than opposing our act Egyptian should have to help us in afforestation and building the dam. wee Ethiopians are now working huge natural resource conservation so as not affect Egypt in lack of water. it is their duty to help this act!

  5. it is not building dam that threats Egypt’s water supply, but drought and deforestation. so that it has to work on afforesting Ethiopian highlands and mountains, unless it will permanently lose Nile if the drought continues in those high lands, the dam that we are building also serves for Egypt as a reserve for water so that rather than opposing our act Egyptian should have to help us in afforestation and building the dam. wee Ethiopians are now working huge natural resource conservation so as not affect Egypt in lack of water. it is their duty to help this act!

  6. We are doing our best for mutual benefit of both upper & down stream countries.what ever the EGYPTIAN says, we never give up from constructing the dam.

  7. We Ethiopian has a win-win strategy with all the down streaming countries & along with this no one can deter us to complet the dam. We have enougn capital & man power for all aspect.
    I advise for the egyptian peoples please understand the benefit of the dam to u. we construct the dam not only for us but also to u.

  8. WHAT EVER ACTION EGYPT TAKEN WE ETHIOPHIAN CONTINUE TO BUILT OUR DAM B/C OF OUR NATURAL RIGHT!

  9. it is our natural right to utilise our natural gift. No one can ever stop us, we are mighty in every aspect. but peace would be of importance for us all. Am from the great Ethiopia

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