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Despite the stiff opposition from Egypt, Ethiopia is ploughing ahead with the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a $4.2 billion hydroelectric dam that is located on the river Nile, and when completed will be Africa’s largest, with a generating capacity of 6,000MW.
The dam is being constructed in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, near to the border with Sudan, and a workforce of 5,000 Ethiopians, led by 200 expats from 20 different nations work in shifts to keep construction going 24 hours a day. The project has a completion date set for 2017.
Artist’s impression of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam upon completion. (African Arguments)
Plans exist to begin filling the dam’s reservoir next year, a task that is expected to take around five years to complete. Simegnew Bekele, the leading engineer on the project, said that “during the filling of the reservoir, which will take five to six years, we won't have any fixed impoundment rate to make sure the water flow downstream will not be significantly affected.”
Egypt are worried that damming the Nile could reduce the flow of water that passes through their country, but there could also be another reason for their opposition; bitterness.
In 1929 Great Britain gave Egypt veto power over all projects along the river Nile, then in 1959 Egypt decided to split the power with Sudan. Only last month did the Nile Basin Initiative, a collection of East and Central African countries, sanction the new Nile River Cooperative Framework Agreement which effectively means that Egypt has lost its control over the Nile. Upstream countries formed the Nile Basin Initiative after finally being “tired of first getting permission from Egypt before using river Nile water for any development project like irrigation.”
In response Egyptian politicians have suggested supporting attacks against Ethiopia in order to sabotage the dam. Security at the construction site is high, with several checkpoints and screenings needed before visitors may enter the site, and soldiers guarding the entire facility.
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Construction of the dam. Photo taken 02.04.13. (NorthJersey.com)
David Shinn, the former US ambassador to Ethiopia, said to CS Monitor that he doubted Egypt would ever actually take up arms against Ethiopia over the dispute. “Following long periods of silence, there are periodic outbursts as we have seen in the past month. I expect this trend to continue but not to result in conflict between the two countries.”
To be honest, I don’t think Egypt is in much of a position to be launching sabotage missions into Ethiopia at the moment. They have a few problems closer to home to sort out first.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com