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Ethiopia won’t stop construction of the Renaissance Dam: minister

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The Grand Renaissance Dam is under construction on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia. (Photo AFP/William Lloyd-George)

February 12, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - Ethiopia’s minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Motuma Mekasa, said his country will continue the construction works on the Renaissance Dam during the preparation of the impact studies which is estimated to take around one year.

He told the BBC Friday that his country would work to officially inaugurate the dam in the advertised date in 2017, pointing that there is no reason to delay the opening of the dam.

Mekasa denied accusations that Ethiopia is stonewalling the talks on the dam, pointing the delay was due to differences that exist among the three countries on the consultancy firms which would undertake the technical studies besides other issues.

Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia signed a declaration of principles on the dam project that tacitly approves the dam construction but calls for technical studies aimed at safeguarding the water quotas of the three riparian states.

On September 22, 2014, the panel of experts in the three countries proposed the conduction of two additional studies on the dam project, the first one on the effect of the dam on the water quota of Sudan and Egypt and the second one to examine the dam’s ecological, economic and social impacts of the dam on Sudan and Egypt.

The French Artelia and BRL groups have been selected to undertake the dam impact studies. The U.K.-based law firm Corbett & Co was selected to manage the legal affairs of the tripartite committee.

It is worth to mention that the 12 th meeting of the tripartite committee on the Renaissance Dam was concluded Thursday in Khartoum without signing the contract of the technical studies with the consultancy firms.

However, the committee agreed to hold another meeting in Addis Ababa in a later date to sign the contract after agreeing on a number of outstanding technical issues contained in it.

The Ethiopian minister underscored that they are taking the Egyptian fears about the negative impact of the dam on its water quota seriously, saying all differences would be resolved through the tripartite talks.

He added that his country is concerned about the delay in the implementation of the declaration of principles signed between leaders of the three countries in Khartoum last March, saying it constitutes the reference for resolving the differences among the three parties.

Mekas further criticized the Egyptian media approach in dealing with the dam project, pointing to its negative effect on the tripartite talks which he described as fruitful.

He expressed his country’s readiness to give Sudan and Egypt the priority in the sale of the electricity produced by the dam at competitive rates for the benefit of the peoples of the region.

The multi-billion dollar dam is being constructed on the Blue Nile, about 20 kilometres 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 is concerned that the dam could reduce its quota of 55.5 billion cubic meters of the Nile water, while the Ethiopian side maintains that the dam is primarily built to produce electricity and will not harm Sudan and Egypt.

(ST)

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