Ethiopia Diverts Nile River for Giant Dam, Raising Fears in Egypt, Sudan


blue nile


Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from GIN


Ethiopian government officials this week celebrated the diversion of the Blue Nile river for what they’ve dubbed the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam which is expected to provide hydroelectricity for Ethiopia and neighboring countries by 2015.


But downstream nations Egypt and Sudan are troubled by the huge hydropower dam going up on the Sudanese border. Planning stages of the project were shrouded in secrecy, much to the alarm of regional governments, Nile planning agencies and Ethiopia’s Western donors. There was no expert analysis that would normally accompany such a titanic project, remarked Sudanese hydrologist Haydar Yousif.


“No environmental assessment is publicly available for the project. And no steps were taken before its launch to openly discuss the dam’s impacts with downstream Nile neighbors Egypt and Sudan,” he said.


“The consequences for Ethiopia’s downstream neighbors could potentially be catastrophic,” Yousif wrote in a published analysis. “The Renaissance Dam’s reservoir will hold back nearly one and a half times the average annual flow of the Blue Nile. Filling the reservoir – which could take 3 to 5 years – will drastically affect the downstream nations’ agriculture, electricity and water supply. Evaporative losses from the dam’s reservoir could be as much as 3 billion cubic metres per year.”


“In addition, the retention of silt by the dam reservoir will dramatically reduce the fertility of soils downstream. Sediment-free water released from dams also increases erosion downstream, which can lead to riverbed deepening and a reduction in groundwater recharge.”


Further, the dam is in a quake zone and could be at risk from damage by earthquakes, yet no one knows if it has even been analysed for this risk. The failure of such a huge structure puts the more than 100 million people living downstream at risk.


“Whatever the outcome of political arbitration, it remains irresponsible for Ethiopia to build Africa’s biggest hydropower project, on its most contentious river, with no public access to critical information about the dam’s impacts – a flawed process which can hardly result in a sustainable project,” said Yousif.


“If the Ethiopian government is serious about maintaining good relations with its Nile neighbors, and if it truly wishes to develop projects that will carry its people and the broader region into prosperity, it must begin by allowing some light to penetrate this secretive development scheme.”

5 Responses to Ethiopia Diverts Nile River for Giant Dam, Raising Fears in Egypt, Sudan

  1. vincent holloway

    Political Aspirations vs Human, Economic & Environmental needs.
    Failure to plan is to plan for failure.

  2. Yibeltal

    Dear writer,
    You are supposed to give real and fresh information, but you are far behind the public, there have been a number of progresses going on regarding this dam and you seem to have no clue of the matter. Sudan offically expressed its support to the dam and it will work with Ethiopia for the further progress of the dam. Sure, Egyptians will also follow our SUdanes Brothers & Sisters, because that is the right thing to do. You definately want want us to go to crisis due to this dam, but sorry, your wish will remain in vaine. Egypt will also understand that the dam will not have significant effect and they will come to understand the real interest and intention of Ethiopia and other East African Countries. I think you got to read more about this dam and I recommend the following Articl to you
    When you say something, please be aware that there are millions of people who can analyse every sentences you write. If you can, try to write something informative and constructive. If not, just don’t wast your time and resources.

  3. tim tameno

    Who said the Nile River solely belongs to Egypt? God was no fool to allow the River to rise in East Africa, and meander through other countries until it empties into the meditteranean sea. Ethiopia has every right to use the waters of the nile

  4. Agere

    Let me start by saying all the comments posted here are results of a unidirectional mind that lacks evidence.
    First of all, all three countries (Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt) are the prime beneficiaries of the project. Ethiopia will get 6000 MW of hydroelectric power in the meanwhile Egypt and Sudan will get the water they used to in a much regulated and flood free manner. Currently the Aswan dam evaporates around 20% of its volume each year, which is actually double to the smaller evaporation by the Ethiopian dam. So definitely the Ethiopian dam will hold the water and release it with a uniform flow rate which actually enhance agricultural productivity and avoids erosion.
    When we come to sedimentation of silt, yes indeed it will sediment the soil at the Ethiopian border and both downstream countries will get the fresh water. But everybody knows that those countries harvest from the Ethiopian soil on their desert ground, and has never paid any compensation even in those Ethiopia’s tragic times of hunger. Rather both especially Egypt was always working hard directly and indirectly for the destabilization of Ethiopia – the televised secretive meeting shows some remnants of those unwashed minds. In any case there is no international understanding about “cross country soil sharing agreement”. Ethiopia is only abided to release a proportionate amount of water (not 100%) to downstream countries, but not her soil. Did Ethiopia shares Sudan’s oil?
    Regarding earth quake, Ethiopia is geographically located in the rift valley. It divided the country in east and western plates. So theoretically there is no place in the country that is quake free. But the degree of intensity differs and the lowest being the border with northern Sudan and Somalia. This dam is situated in this area to avoid the risk of earthquake and definitely a design solution has already been provided in reinforcing the dam to resist the effect if any. Let alone this big national treasure we carefully design our buildings and structures to respond to earthquake.
    Everybody including this Sudanese hydrologist thinks that a project could only be feasible only when western scholars and expertise puts a hand on it. We have tried to sail the same ship again and again regarding national projects especially the case of Nile. But it was fruitless due to the political barrier and the bargain these so called expertise play. Now in Ethiopia as well as many riparian countries the thinking has been changed. We are committed to build the dam with own expertise and own resource, we also encourages a helping hand that shares our vision. Hence there is no need to present it for others as far as we know the usual response.
    To conclude in designing and launching this project Ethiopia has shown a lot of respect and good gesture to all the parties affected by the outcome. She has not been irresponsible like Egypt or Sudan, when they sign the Nile treaties, or build the Aswan dam, or planning the new project of selling water to Israel. Instead insisted the formation of team of expertise for evaluation of the project, allows the physical visit of Egyptian and Sudanese delegation on the construction site, and inform both countries on the construction development. The only negative impact here is the 3-4 years’ time, those downstream countries has to suffer until the dam is fully filled. And at this point I think they should tolerate this short term chronic situation. Since Ethiopia has tolerated empty stomach, darker nights, under developed infrastructures, and lack of basic services for centuries, let them taste it for a brief and once finalized we all shine again.

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