Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan edge closer to agreement over dam

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Addis Ababa, December 13 (WIC) - Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan are edging closer to form a committee which will follow through recommendations put forth by experts’ panel regarding the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The three countries managed to narrow their differences following two rounds of negotiations after the release of a report by the International Panel of Experts (IPoE) which assessed the impact of GERD on downstream countries.
On Monday, water ministers from the three countries agreed in Khartoum on the composition of the committee, one area of difference during the first negotiation held in November. They have agreed that the committee will be comprised of four representatives from each country.
Egypt initially wanted international experts to be included in the new committee, which was opposed by Ethiopia and Sudan.
“The committee will follow up whether Ethiopia is properly addressing the recommendations forwarded by the panel of experts,” Fekahmed Negash, director of Boundary and Transboundary River Affairs Directorate at Water and Energy Ministry, told WIC.
“It is a very simple engagement and we believe, in principle, that this can be done by the capacities of the three countries,” he said.
The committee’s task was also one area of disagreement during the first meeting, also held in Khartoum. Egypt wanted the committee not just to follow up but also to implement the recommendations, which Ethiopia rejected.
With Sudan, at times, playing a mediatory role the trio agreed to limit the committee’s role to follow up implementations, which would be carried out by Ethiopia through the EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contractor.
Further studies
IPoE released their report in June this year after assessing the impact of the dam, being built on the Blue Nile River. The 50-page report with an annex of over 800 pages is yet to be made public.
However, it was revealed that the IPoE report assured the dam’s safety but recommended that further studies be done on hydrological simulation model and transboundary social and environmental impact assessment.
“We have prior studies on both subjects but the studies have to be carried out jointly and using primary data,” Fekahmed told WIC.    
The committee, which the three countries establish, will hire a consultant to conduct the studies, Fekahmed said. 
Third round of negotiations are scheduled to take place in the first week of January. Discussions will focus on modalities of seeking external experts’ opinion if the three countries fail to agree on the final study submitted, Fekahmed told WIC.
Meanwhile, construction of what would be Africa’s biggest hydroelectric dam is over 30 percent complete. The 6,000 megawatts capacity Renaissance Dam is expected to be completed in 2017.
Although Egypt remains fearful that the dam would “significantly reduce its water share”, Sudan has publicly declared its support for GERD.   

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