Dec 31 2015

Ethiopia denies agreeing not to fill Renaissance dam

An Ethiopian official dismissed media reports of the signing of a new agreement barring water filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam with water. The claims were made following the latest talk on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam was concluded on Tuesday.

The Foreign Ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan met in Khartoum this week to move along the work of the Tripartite National Committee (TNC).

Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan have been conducting high-level meetings since the launch of the Ethiopian dam in 2011.The latter two countries are dependent on the Nile River, of which about 85% flows from Ethiopia.

In 2013, the International Panel of Experts (IPOE), jointly established to review the project documents, recommended further study on Hydropower System Simulation Model and Transboundary Environmental and Socio – Economic Impact.

Subsequently, in September 2014, a Tripartite National Committee (TNC), consisting four experts from the three countries, was setup to oversee the conduct of study, including selection of a consultant firm. The TNC, however, failed to make much progress prompting the leaders of the three countries to meet last March and sign a Declaration of Principles.

Image - Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam reservoir

Image – Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam reservoir

The French firm BRL and the Dutch firm Deltares were commissioned to conduct the studies. Yet, the Dutch firm later withdrew, requiring the selection of a new firm.

The three ministers agreed on Tuesday this week to replace the Dutch firm with the French firm Artelia. The three re-affirmed their commitment to the Declaration of Principles and Ethiopian Foreign Minister invited his counterparts to visit the project site.

Following the conclusion of the meeting, an Egyptian media and another middle-eastern outlet cited claimed a new deal that bars Ethiopia from filling the dam’s reservoir has been signed. Al-Arabia News reported:

Alaa Yassin, the Egyptian official responsible for the Renaissance Dam project and adviser to the Egyptian Minister of Irrigation who participated in the negotiations, told Al Arabiya News […] that there is an agreement that filling the dam will be possible only after a consensus among the three countries.

Addis Ababa, however, dismissed the reports.

A high-ranking official, involved in the talks, told HornAffairs the claims are baseless, The official who wished not to be named for fear of triggering a war-of-words, emphatically said that:

“There is not new agreement. We merely signed the minutes. The media reports, if accurate, could be aimed at domestic political consumption.

The Declaration of Principles is clear that the studies will be conducted in parallel with the project’s work. We did not agree to halt anything. We did not commit not to fill the dam.

The Egyptians have concerns and they raise various issues. We are trying to build confidence providing relevant information and reiterating our commitment to cooperation.”

The Foreign Ministers will meet in February 2016.

The Ethiopian dam, slated to produce 6,000 Megawatts upon completion, has been reached 50% of the project plan, according to official reports.