Ethiopia forges ahead with dam construction despite stall in Nile talks

Addis Ababa, January 10 (WIC) – A recent deadlock in tripartite talks between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt will have no impact on the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy said. The third round of ministerial talks held in Khartoum earlier this week ended after Ethiopia rejected a proposal by Egypt to set up international experts to follow up implementation of recommendations put forth by International Panel of Experts (IPoE).

The ministers returned to their countries without setting a date for a next round of talks. Fekahmed Negash, director of Boundary and Transboundary River Affairs Directorate at the ministry, reiterated Ethiopia’s position that the construction of the 6,000MW hydroelectric dam will not slow down despite stall in talks.

“Whether discussions continue or not, there will not be any impact on the construction of the dam. It will not affect the schedule or the size of the dam. The construction will continue,” Fekahmed said.

The $4.2 billion dam in Guba wereda of Benishangul Gumuz region is currently 30 percent complete and it is expected to be completed in three years. However, Egypt fears the dam will impact its water supply. Following disagreement with Ethiopia, Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Moteleb is quoted as saying that his country will not send a delegation to Addis Ababa unless Ethiopia’s government changes its position. “We have exhausted all opportunities to negotiate with Ethiopia because of the intransigence of Addis Ababa,” Abdel-Moteleb said.

However, Ethiopia remains hopeful that talks will continue to narrow differences between the countries and find common grounds. “The countries are tied together strongly by the bond created by the river,” Fekahmed said. “We do not have any options other than discussions.” Sudan, who has officially backed the construction of the dam, is keen for a fourth round of discussions. The series of talks between the three countries are aimed at establishing a joint committee to follow up implementation of the recommendations of IPoE.

The international experts which assessed the impacts of the dam have recommended further studies be carried out. The studies include hydrological simulation model and trans-boundary social and environmental impact assessment. The studies are expected to be conducted by an international consultant to be hired once the joint committee is formed.