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Egypt Worries as Ethiopia Diverts Nile to Build $4.5 Billion Hydroelectric Dam

Egypt Worries as Ethiopia Diverts Nile to Build $4.5 Billion Hydroelectric Dam

Ethiopia has diverted the Nile River as it continues with the construction of a new $4.7 billion hydroelectric dam.

In its quest to become Africa’s largest power exporter Ethiopia has set out plans to invest more than $12 billion in various projects designed to harness the natural power of the various rivers running through the country’s rugged highlands.

The flagship of the plan is the Grand Renaissance Dam being built in the Benishangul-Gumuz region near to Sudan; currently 21% complete, it will have a 6GW capacity once finished.

The Chief Executive Officer of the state-run Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, Mihret Debebe, said that “the dam is being built in the middle of the river so you can't carry out construction work while the river flowed.” The diversion of the Nile around the site “now enables us to carry out civil engineering work without difficulties. The aim is to divert the river by a few meters and then allow it to flow on its natural course.”

Related article: Africa Ready to Reverse its Resource Curse

Many downstream countries are worried that the new dam will affect the flow of the water. Egypt especially fears that the various projects could impact on the flow of the Nile, and Cairo has pressed foreign investors to withhold their funding, at least until a thorough report into the impact on the Nile’s flow has been completed, due to be completed within the next two weeks.

Mohamed Bahaa El-Din, Egypt's Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, explained that Egypt was not directly opposed to Ethiopia’s plans, as long as they did not harm any downstream countries.

“Crises in the distribution and management of water faced in Egypt these days and the complaints of farmers from a lack of water confirms that we cannot let go of a single drop of water from the quantity that comes to us from the Upper Nile.”

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com



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  • Mike on May 31 2013 said:
    It is all about geopolitics. who controls the Nile water controls the regions geopolitics. The split of the Sudan, Ethiopia, and the lawlessness in Somalia are in some way related to this regional dynamics.

    What we are seeing now is a complete new dynamism of the region, viz: the Arab middle east on the one hand, the sub-saharan African on the other.

    I think the era of concurring and displacement of the sub-saharan is going to be history now.
  • Joseph E Fasciani on May 30 2013 said:
    I'm writing you from Victoria, British Columbia, where we have very large integrated hydroelectric schemes in place and more large ones to come. We are also familiar w/both the benefits and the various problems that these also bring.

    Not only is it true that there is no net loss of water from most impoundments, there may even be an increase, as we've found evidence that these large artificial lakes create more permanent cloud cover for the area.

    There WILL be very large problems for any migrating fish, and thus for the fisher folk dependent on those fish. As the lakes saturate the lands surrounding them, there can be immense landslides, depending on the land's angle of repose and soil type.

    Egypt's new Aswan Dam should have given it a very good forecast of what to expect, so it may want to think twice before it calls a new actor in these matters. It has negotiated terms for the benefits and losses of the new Aswan Dam before; it can do so again.

    There's a good article on the new Aswan Dam at http://geography.about.com/od/specificplacesofinterest/a/nile.htm
  • Gordon Mumbo on May 30 2013 said:
    Had Egypt agreed to sign the Collective Framework Agreement on the Nile it would be easy to mediate such issues. Power generation is non consumptive use of water and does not result in a lot of water loss. Power is a problem in the region, the project should be allowed to go on.

    The challenge in the basin is stereotyping and lack of information on facts on the Nile in the basin population.

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