Abide by International Law

Abyssinia Business Network /ABN/ “It’s Our Dam”

Egypt through the 1959 agreement with Sudan have apportioned 100% of the Nile waters for themselves and have left behind the nine Nile Basin countries with zero meter cube allocation. That agreement is still valid and active for the two countries of Egypt and Sudan. So currently the rest of us, the nine countries, according to that agreement, have a zero meter allocation.

So that is the status now in terms of utilizing the Nile waters. For example, the electricity coverage in Egypt is more than 98% while it is around 35% in Ethiopia. In terms of water use for irrigation also, Egypt has developed close to 4 million hectares of land; Sudan has developed close to 2 million hectares of land while Ethiopia has used only limited amount of its water resources.

Also in all other upper basin countries, there are irrigation potential but the developed portion is very minimum. Therefore, in terms of energy generation and overall GDP Egypt has the largest share among all the Nile Basin counties.

Gedion Asfaw / Eng. /
Chairperson, National Panel of Experts and Technical Negotiating Team

Ethiopia’s decision to build the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam /GERD/ remains to be a matter of survival. Ethiopia, indeed, has undertaken some projects in the Blue Nile Basin such as Tana Beles Hydroelectric project which has a capacity to generate 460 MW, Fincha hydroelectric project and some irrigation projects around Lake Tana and Fincha.

Nonetheless, these are not very substantial projects when compared with what has been developed over the past years in Egypt and Sudan. For the first time Ethiopia ventured to build GERD that is planned to generate some 6000 MW. This intention is misunderstood especially by Egypt that the project will reduce the water allocation of Egypt and Sudan, which Ethiopia and the upstream countries do not recognize the self proclaimed water allocation.

Over the past years Ethiopia has opposed the 1959 agreement including the development projects in the two downstream countries. The Toshika Irrigation project and Sinai Irrigation project have taken the waters of the Blue Nile out of the Basin which is against customary law. The upstream countries can carry out similar projects, taking the waters of the Nile out of the basin which is an inter-basin transfer.

This is rarely done in other countries Egypt carried out inter basin transfer of the Nile without consulting with other basin countries. They have transferred the waters of the Nile in to the desert, consisting of five lakes. They are wasting the water through evaporation on Lake Nasir and Toshika Lakes.

International water law supports and promotes the use of water in one’s territory of any sovereign country. There is also a provision that within a given geographical territory every nation has the right to develop its resources.

“Egypt is afraid of the fact that this dam will generate a self-reliance psychology among other African countries to build their own dams with their own resources.”

There is also an international law that any country that develops its resources should take into consideration downstream concerns that the development shall not inflict significant harm.

Egypt has developed close to 4 million hectares of land and built dams, inflicting significant harm on upstream countries by foreclosing development of water resources and claiming all the waters of the Nile among the two downstream countries.

People think that only upstream countries could cause significant harm on downstream countries, but downstream countries cause significant harm by foreclosing all water dependent development activities So we have to really understand that downstream countries can cause significant harm on upstream countries.

There was an understanding that Egypt’s act was hegemonic, showing and relying on military power, and using the waters of the Nile Basin without consulting with upstream countries. There are, of course, some elements of truth in this notion. But it is now being challenged by all upstream countries, including Ethiopia. Now the accepted behavior is to agree on equitable and reasonable utilization of the Nile waters.

You cannot behave now as you used to. This is 21st century that international laws and orders should be respected. Countries are now building their respective capacities diplomatically, militarily and economically and the population of the Nile basin countries is exploding.

Thus the use of Nile waters should only be governed by international principles of equitable and reasonable use and not causing significant harm.

With regards to the changes in the number of turbines, Ethiopia wants to optimize the energy production and the generation capacity as related to the number of turbines. So the optimum solution was to have 13 instead of 16 turbines. That has nothing to do with negotiations with Sudan and Egypt. The change was done in connection with our power generation capacity and achieving the same energy output of 15,700GWh/year with reduced number of turbines.

As far as diplomatic effort is concerned, Ethiopia has not, in deed, focused on making unnecessary noises Ethiopia , however, has launched various diplomatic tours to Europe, the Middle East and other parts of the world, deploying its diplomats, politicians and scholars to reveal Ethiopia’s stand and negotiations on GERD. Our embassies are well aware of what is going on and trying to explain the current situation to the international community.

It’s advisable for Egypt to come to terms with Ethiopia’s proposal on the filling and operation of the Renaissance Dam. More significantly, Egypt has to look for other alternative sources of water for it has plenty of deep ground water; they have also begun desalination of Mediterranean and Red Sea waters, and other ways to reduce their reliance on the Nile. Egypt may be afraid of the fact that this dam will generate a self-reliance psychology among other African countries to build their own dams with their own resources.

”The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is the dam of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Negotiations should continue among Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt in order to settle the disagreement. GERD is not the only dam in the world. There are 8,000 large dams worldwide and close to 240 agreements and treaties between upstream and downstream countries. Ours is not the first or the only negotiations going on among the three countries.

There has never been war over water sharing. So Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt should keep negotiating and resolve their differences. There is no other alternative; resorting to conflict will not ensure the water security of Sudan and Egypt. It will even make it worse if there is conflict in the region.

Despite the uncomfortable and inconvenient political climate, I am optimistic that the countries will resolve their differences. Of course, transboundary negotiations take time. The CFA negotiations, took some 13years; the Colombia, the United States and Mexico negotiations all had taken time.

All have to understand that there are millions of people along the Blue Nile, utilizing the water since Millennia, and the population is growing at an alarming rate. Whether the downstream countries like it or not people will continue to use the waters of the Nile. No one can prevent farmers living along the Nile River from using the water and break the spiritual connection that exist among these people.

It’s my dam, your dam and our dam. This is a motto that Ethiopians at home and abroad should adopt. GERD belongs to Ethiopians who have contributed their finance, knowledge, time, energy, hopes and dreams to the realization of the objective of the dam.

GERD is a dam of this generation; it will be a dam of future generation. It is the dam of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It is not only Ethiopians but also other African nations who should recognize that the Renaissance Dam is a symbol of self-reliance.

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