By Staff Reporters
April 11, 2011 (Ezega.com) - Egypt has reiterated its opposition to Ethiopia’s plans to build a dam on the Nile River, raising concerns about water supply in Cairo. To make itself heard, a 40-member Egyptian delegation visited Uganda, seeking cooperation in opposing Addis Ababa’s Grand Millennium Dam construction in Benshangul Gumuz state, which began on April 2, 2011.
In its opposition to Ethiopia’s construction of the mega hydropower plant on the Nile River, about 40 kms from Sudan, Egypt requested Ethiopia to allow it to conduct technical and environmental studies on the proposed dam to determine its repercussions on the Nile water quota. However, Ethiopia has rejected the Egyptian request, saying it is not a member of the Entebbe Treaty and that any question on the project must come through the Cooperative Framework Agreement.
Unfazed by Egyptian threats, Ethiopia has intimated its intention to construct a number of small projects on the Nile, besides the Grand Millennium Dam, which would generate 6,000-MW electricity. Ethiopia has already made its intentions clear on going ahead with the project, saying that the mega hydropower projects is critical in addressing the country’s severe energy paucity. The project would also help the country realize its desire to become one of the key electricity exporters in the region.
Ethiopian Prime Minsiter had said last week that the new Dam will only benefit all parties, including Egypt. He said Egypt is continuing its long-standing policy of preventing Ethiopian development along the Nile. He even went as far as accusing Egypt of collaborating with ant-Ethiopia elements over the years to promote this cause.
Egypt has virtually held monopoly over the Nile waters as per the 1929 colonial treaty with Britain, which gave Egypt veto rights over all upstream projects. In 1959, it signed a deal with Sudan, which allowed both countries 90 percent of the share of the Nile waters. However, recently, Nile basin countries, comprising Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Burundi, signed a separate agreement to end Egypt’s historical control over the river waters. Once respective parliaments of these countries ratify the agreement, these countries would not be required to seek Egypt’s approval before implementing irrigation and hydropower projects on the Nile.
Egypt has since been opposing the Entebbe agreement, which calls for redistribution of historical Nile water quotas. Egypt complains that its share of water would drastically reduce if a dam is constructed. Egypt and Sudan have not ratified the Entebbe Treaty.
During the Egyptian delegation’s visit to Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni spoke for the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework agreement, saying that all Nile basin states had the right to equally benefit from its waters. Museveni told the delegation that there was a dire need for electrification in the basin countries, which would discourage people from cutting trees for firewood.
Another blow to Egyptian influence on the Nile waters came in the form of a memorandum of understanding signed between the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries and the Nile Basin Initiative, which seeks to facilitate cooperation for sustainable development and efficient management in the region.