Ethiopia – Egypt resume conflict over Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam

Ethiopia and Egypt have resumed hostilities over Ethiopia’s construction of Africa’s largest hydroelectric power dam.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is 60 percent complete, is expected to generate up to 6,000 megawatts of power – double the electricity demand in Ethiopia, allowing it export electricity to South Africa and Western Europe.

Currently, it exports electricity to neighbouring Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan at one of the cheapest market prices.

Ethiopia - Egypt tensions over dam

Source: Al Jazeera

The cost of the project, launched in 2011, is estimated at $4.8bn and is undertaken to ‘help solve a national energy crisis in Ethiopia.

However, Egypt has raised fears the construction of the dam could threaten its water supply from the Blue Nile.

Most of Egypt’s Nile water originates in Ethiopia. However, Egypt and Sudan hold majority rights to the Nile based on colonial-era treaties of 1929 and 1959 – something that has angered Ethiopia in the past. This treaty does not bind Ethiopia.

Egypt - Ethiopia tensions over dam

Source: Al Jazeera

In 2015, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia reached an agreement about how GERD will affect water distribution and access to the Nile, with Egypt accepting Ethiopia’s right to develop its hydropower resources – as long as it doesn’t cause significant harm to its own water supply.

Recent agitations are unfounded, with Al Jazeera reporting ‘there have also been rumors on social media in Ethiopia about possible air strikes by Egypt aiming to destroy the 1.7 kilometre dam.’

“Construction has never stopped, and will never stop, until the project is completed […] We are not concerned by what Egypt thinks – Ethiopia is committed to benefitting from its water resources without causing harm to anyone,” Ethiopia’s Minister of Irrigation, Water and Electricity, Seleshi Bekele, said.

Ethiopia’s prime minister also affirmed that he would not let the dam harm the interests of downstream nations.

It is reported that about 20,000 Ethiopians will be resettled to make way for the dam.

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