Egypt minister downplays effects of Ethiopia dam

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Addis Ababa, 30 August 2014 (WIC) - Egyptian Irrigation Minister Hossam al-Moghazi downplayed Friday the negative effects on Egypt’s water supply of the ongoing construction of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, saying the first phase of construction would not cause any tangible harm to Egypt, The Daily Star reported.

“The results of additional studies will appear in March 2015, six months before construction of the first phase of the dam is complete,” Moghazi told  Anadolu Agency.  “This [continued construction of the dam] does not worry us,” Moghazi added.

Last year, an international panel of experts recommended that two studies to be conducted: a hydrological simulation model and a trans-boundary environmental, social and economic impact assessment.

The two countries agreed to resume tripartite talks over the dam – along with fellow riparian state Sudan – after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi met in Equatorial Guinea in June.

The tripartite meetings came after an eight-month hiatus due to ongoing differences between Cairo and Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia, for its part, says the dam is necessary for its national development plans. It insists the project won’t impact Egypt’s water share, which has long been governed by a colonial-era water-sharing treaty – a treaty that Addis Ababa has never recognized.

Moghazi said Egypt was only concerned about the dam’s projected storage capacity, which, he says, could erode Egypt’s “historical share” of Nile water.

He stressed that Egypt had made a goodwill gesture by not asking Ethiopia to halt work on the project – a request Cairo made one year ago without effect.