Controversial Nile dam talks continue

2021-01-10 18:19:27
Controversial Nile dam talks continue

Government authorities from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan are again holding talks in a bid to try to resolve a long running dispute caused by the construction of a huge dam on the River Nile.

In July last year the reservoir of the hydro electric dam in the west of Ethiopia began filling with water in spite of the breakdown of talks between the three countries.

The Addis Ababa government is determined to supply electricity for its population and will additionally export power.

But Egypt is worried that during years of drought its water supply will be greatly decreased.

Sudan has warned Ethiopia not to continue with the second step of filling the dam before an agreement is inked.The latest round of talks mediated by the African Union will include the officials meeting each other virtually.

Why the dam is so controversial

The polite diplomatic façade was maintained yet the words of the Egyptian and Ethiopian representatives indicated a belligerence that was hard to disguise.

The meeting of the UN Security Council to talk about Ethiopia's huge hydro-electric plant, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd), straddling the Blue Nile, was held by teleconference.

The social distance that the participants had to observe underscored the diplomatic gulf.

It is a gulf that is likely to sweep up the populations of the two countries into mutual distrust.

The Gerd, which sits on the Nile's main tributary, is upstream of Egypt and has the potential to take control of the flow of water that the country almost entirely depends on.

It also will be, when fully operational, the largest hydro-electric plant in the entire African continent, and projected to provide power to 65 million Ethiopians, who right now lack a regular electricity supply.

The construction, which started in 2011, is almost complete.

For the Egyptian and Ethiopian authorities at the UN meeting, the very existence of their countries was in danger.

"A threat of potentially existential proportions has emerged that could encroach on the single source of livelihood of over 100 million Egyptians," the country's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stated.

Using somewhat similar language, Ethiopia's UN ambassador Taye Atske-Selassie replied: "For Ethiopia, accessing and utilizing its water resources is not a matter of choice, but of existential necessity."

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