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Tripartite committee on Ethiopian dam begins meetings in Khartoum

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December 11, 2015 (KHARTOUM) - The tenth meeting of the tripartite committee on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has begun Friday in Khartoum with the participation of the Irrigation and foreign ministers of Sudan, Egypt and Sudan.

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An Egyptian farmer stands by his cow as it takes a drink from the Nile. Egypt fears that a massive Ethiopian dam project will ultimately diminish its historic water rights (Photo: Reuters)

The meeting, which was postponed last Saturday, a day before it was scheduled to take place, would discuss the technical issues regarding the dam’s construction.

It seeks to achieve agreement between the French and Dutch consultants to implement the technical studies which were requested by the tripartite committee in May 2013
Following the first closed session, the three delegations held separate meetings to reach a new vision on the outstanding issues.

According to the Turkey-based Anadolu agency, Sudan’s ministers of foreign affairs Ibrahim Ghandour and irrigation and water resources Muataz Musa have embarked on separate consultations with their Ethiopian and Egyptian counterparts.

Well-placed Sudanese sources said the technical meeting which was scheduled to be held in the presence of the French and the Dutch consultants has been delayed according to an Egyptian request.

The same sources said the report of the Dutch consultant pointed out the Ethipoia and Sudan would benefit from the construction of the GERD without mentioning Egypt as a beneficiary.

It is noteworthy that three countries had previously formed a committee to select a consultancy firm to assess the impact of GERD on Sudan and Egypt. Four consultancy firms from France, Australia and Netherlands had been short-listed initially and invited to submit their proposals.

Last, Ethiopia’s minister of water and energy Motuma Mekasa said the French and Dutch consultants failed to come up with a common guideline to implement the technical studies for the GERD.

At the start of the meetings, the three sides laid out their visions to resolve the outstanding issues and overcome obstacles to the technical agreement besides carrying out pledges signed between the three countries.

The Egyptian delegation stressed the need to develop a roadmap that addresses its concerns regarding the speedy construction work on the GERD and the slow pace of the technical talks, demanding Ethiopia to put in place a mechanism to ensure full implementation of the agreements signed between the three countries.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian sources have disclosed that the Ethiopian delegation has responded to the Egyptian concerns which were raised during the meeting, saying Ethiopia wouldn’t shutdown the GERD to prevent the water flow from the Blue Nile to the downstream countries.

According to the sources, the Ethiopian delegation underscored they have laboratories that could identify and prevent any risks posed to the water quotas of Egypt and Sudan.

The Ethiopian side further expressed readiness to launch a giant agricultural project on the Sudanese/Ethiopian border by utilizing the electrical power produced from the GERD.

It stressed the GERD could participate to resolving the electricity shortage in the three countries by providing cheap power particularly as the population of the Nile Basin countries is increasing, saying this would allow to establish a solid industrial base.

The multi-billion dollar dam is being constructed on the Blue Nile, about 20 kilometers from the Sudanese border, and has a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters, and is expected to generate electrical power of up to 6,000 megawatts.

Egypt has consistently expressed worry that the construction of the GERD will affect its annual share of water from Nile.

But Ethiopia insists that this will not occur and asserts that the project is indispensable to its own national development and the economic welfare of its burgeoning population.

(ST)

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