International Rivers said, on its website, today, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam ‘will flood 1,680 square kilometers of forest in northwest Ethiopia.’ It noted further that ‘filling [the dam’s] huge reservoir will certainly impact Egypt, which relies almost totally on the Nile for its water supply. Many fear the project could set off a water war in the region.’

The organization, alongside with other groups, is known for its unrelenting campaign against Ethiopia’s other dam Gibe III, which is to be completed by 2013.

The statement noted further ‘the US$5 billion project is out of scale for such a poor country and not the best option for meeting the population’s energy needs’.

A Google map of the area doesn’t indicate a huge forestry, however.

Director of Ethiopian Environmental Authority Tewoldeberhane  Gebreegeziabhere(PhD), said three months ago the environmental impacts of the dam are minimal and taken into consideration. Walta Information Center‘s report of the interview reads:

He said any human activity has an impact on the environment but the question is how series is the impact and can the impact be mitigated.

‘On all the two accounts and evaluation of the initial project document, the project is appropriate and it would bring massive benefits to residents of the region including those countries downstream,’

He indicated that some local people will be displaced but the project envisages that it has set aside a budget line for resettling them in other areas.

‘The generation of power does not use up water. It only uses energy that was contained in the flowing water……Flooding that takes place during rainy season in those countries downstream will no longer be the case’.

In short, the Dr. Tewoldeberhane statement indicates at least a preliminary Social and Environmental Impact study is conducted. And, the result had shown the negative impacts are minimal and mitigating measures are in place, as required by the Authority’s manual. A detailed impact assessment is usually carried out side by side with the project, as its output would be detailing the findings of the preliminary study and elaborating on the mitigating measures.

It is good International Rivers tried to create awareness on a likely cost of the dam, as it focuses on environmental issues. But that is not the impression one gets from the statement.

The statement didn’t say whether the organizational intends to launch a campaign against the Renaissance dam. Yet, it appears to set the tone for a likely campaign, be it by International Rivers or a similar International NGO.

Its objection to the Renaissance dam involves curious issues. It said:

The project’s launch came in the midst of the Egyptian revolution, which some observers believe was intended to take advantage of the more powerful nation’s confused political state at a time when the issue of who controls the Nile is heating up. Egypt has long held the majority rights to the Nile – a situation that especially angers Ethiopia, which is the source of 85% of the river’s waters. While there are no known studies about the dam’s impacts on the river’s flow, filling such a huge reservoir (it will hold up to 67 billion cubic meters of water, and likely take years to reach capacity) will certainly impact Egypt, which relies almost totally on the Nile for its water supply.

It is difficult to understand how International Rivers could feel the injustice of taking ‘advantage of [Egypt’s] confused political state’, but fails to note Egypt had always sought to destabilize Ethiopia. This is not a conspiracy theory but a widely recorded one, as recent as last April.(See here (link))

The statement speculated the dam ‘will certainly impact Egypt’, probably referring to the water loss due to evaporation that will take place on the reservoir of Renaissance dam. The fact that the Renaissance dam will reduce the current water loss, including on Aswan dam, by 7.5 bln cm is ignored in the statement. Also, the benefits of the dam to Egypt and Sudan by reducing silt and flooding, and providing electricity.

An organization which claims to stand for justice happens to be concerned with ‘water war’, ‘Egypt’s rights’, and ‘Egypt’s reliance on Nile’ but not with the injustice of the position taken by Egypt and its colonial masters on the matter. It didn’t even note the fact that Egypt’s claim of majority share is of uncertain legal status, if not invalid.

All these facts were available on this blog(danielberhane’s blog) which International Rivers linked at the bottom of its statement.

The statement also talks about raising taxes, though it didn’t indicate its sources.

Depressingly International Rivers concluded its statement saying ‘China may pay for the project turbines, should it ever make it to that stage.’ One can’t help to wonder whether Ethiopia took a land or some other property that belongs to International Rivers organization.

Of course, the organization is at odds with the Ethiopian government for its campaign against Gibe III dam. It is probably one of the organizations Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had in mind when he bashed anti-dam groups as ‘hydro-power extremists’ and their activity as ‘bordering on the criminal’ in an international conference last November.

But this is not the way to settle scores with Meles Zenawi and his government.

International Rivers and its partners should know the Renaissance dam is bigger than Meles Zenawi and a culmination generations’ dream. Standing on its way will indeed be a crime.

In deed, the gross misrepresentation of the facts surrounding the Nile and an apparent attempt to trigger off a negative media campaign creates on suspicion on the motives behind its campaign against Gibe III dam, which they proudly claim to have made it abandoned by international financiers.

Though there is little anti-dam groups could do to obstruct the Renaissance dam, we don’t want them further complicating the issues, emboldening Egypt, further distancing potential financiers and negating the current relatively good public international public opinion.

International Rivers and the like are kindly requested to stay away from the Renaissance dam. They are also advised to look into their ranks and files for Egyptian connections.

Ethiopia has a long memory and will not remain poor for long.


Please read International River’s statement (link) and express your displeasure via e-mail([email protected]). Or, leave your comment here below and I will assemble and e-mail them.

Check the Nile Archive for previous posts.

Daniel Berhane

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