CAIRO: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi inked an agreement with his Sudanese Counterpart Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Monday, the first agreement between Ethiopia and Egypt on the controversial dam since its construction began in 2010.
“We will never allow any obstacle to send us back to the period before signing the Declaration of the Renaissance Dam Principles Charter,” said Sisi at a Khartoum summit convened to sign the agreement.
“We aim to make the Nile the pillar of cooperation among the countries,” he added in his speech.
He said the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam represents hope for the Ethiopian people, but has raised concerns for Egyptians, who worry the structure would jeopardize their access to water.
Egypt’s share of the Nile water is 55 billion cubic meters annually, while average rain fall in other Basin countries reaches 1.6 trillion cubic meters annually, he noted.
“This is a milestone in the history of cooperation on the Nile and NBI takes this opportunity to congratulate the three countries on this great achievement, announced the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) in a statement Monday.
The Egyptian ambassador to Ethiopia Mohamed Idris Monday commented that all parties are winners and charter is a “balance point” in the relations of the three parties. He added in remarks to the reporters in Khartoum that the charter protects Egypt’s interests.
The Egyptian expert in the Nile Basin Affairs Hani Raslan posted on his Facebook page that the agreement would be a burden on Egypt acceding to what has been announced, saying that it was signed regardless all pervious signed water agreements.
Sisi said there should be further detailed agreements to solve pending Nile Basin issues, noting that the vast majority of Egyptians rely on the river as their sole source of water.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the dam would not harm any downstream country, adding that the Ethiopian dam would achieve the interests of the Ethiopian people and the Egyptians as well.
“We are here today to sign the declaration of dam principles and that confirm Ethiopia’s readiness and commitment to the mutual interests and cooperation among the three countries,” Desalegn said.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir as well announced his country’s commitment to continue the talks for reaching detailed agreements regulate the cooperation among the Nile Basin States.
The construction of dam has been a high priority issue for Egypt’s government, which has raised concerns it would negatively affect its water supply. Ethiopia has claimed the dam is necessary for its development; both states agreed to tripartite talks that started in August 2014 and were hosted by Sudan.
On March 6 during tripartite Khartoum talks, ministers of three countries reached a preliminary agreement on the operation of Renaissance Dam.
The New Charter
The new charter stipulates that Egypt would participate with Ethiopia in the management of the dam with written guarantees; anonymous Egyptian officials told Youm7 Sunday the guarantees would protect Egypt’s share of Nile waters; they added that Ethiopia agreed to Egypt’s participation as long as it does not affect Ethiopian sovereignty in the dam’s management.
The Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hossam Moghazy told reporters Monday in Khartoum after the signature that the charter includes that the dam’s reservoir would not be filled without Egypt and Sudan’s approval.
“When we reach an agreement with an international consultant company, the reservoir would be filled in 15 months,” he added.
During tripartite meetings in August, the three countries agreed that an international office would be chosen to conduct studies relating with the social and environmental effects of the dam on the downstream countries. Five international companies (two French, one Dutch, and another Australian) submitted their bid to conduct such studies.
Moughzy noted that it was agreed that the dam would be used only for producing the electricity, and not affect water flow. He continued that in case that the downstream countries were negatively affected, they would be compensated and the priority of electricity would be for Egypt and Sudan.
In August, 2014, Moghazy stated that Sisi was seeking with the Ethiopian side to carry out a project to allocate 12 billion cubic meters of water for both Egypt and Sudan.
During the Khartoum Summit, the Minister also revealed that there was a difference among the three countries before the signature of the agreement; Ethiopia insisted to put phrase “the three countries shall respect the technical studies,” while Egypt wanted to put phrase “the countries shall adhere to the technical studies.” However, the both sides agreed to put phrase “the three countries shall adhere to the respect of the technical studies.”
The lake of about $4 billion dam would be filled 74 billion cubic meters of water; and is expected to produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity. According to website of the Italian Salini Impergilo, the company charged to construct to the dam, the dam’s construction, which is expected to be completed in 78 months. The initial construction started in December 2010, and has continued off and on since then.
Egypt and water share agreements
In 1929, the Egypt government signed a treaty with the British colonial government on behalf of the other Nile Basin States (Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda,) whereby Egypt and Sudan have acquired water rights of and Egypt has the right to veto to any project could be established on the banks of the Nile Tributaries which it deems could affect its share of water. Under the treaty, Egypt was allocated 48 billion cubic meters annually.
Late President Gamal Abdel Nasser signed in November 1959 a complementary deal to the 1929 agreement as Egypt’s water share increased to 55.5 billion cubic meters and Sudan’s water reached 18.5 billion cubic meters. Under the complementary agreement, Egypt established the High Dam and Sudan established The Roseires Dam on the Blue Nile.
In 1993, both Egypt and Ethiopia signed an agreement under which both sides agreed not to establish a project could negatively affect the interests of the other country.
Egypt later rejected The Entebbe Agreement, also called the Cooperative Framework Agreement, that was signed by five Nile Basin countries, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya, in 2010. Burundi later signed the agreement in 2011.
The treaty enshrines “the principle that each Nile Basin State has the right to use, within its territory, the waters of the Nile River System in a manner that is consistent with the other basic principles referred to herein,” and specifies the utilization of water “in an equitable and reasonable manner,” based on “the contribution of each Basin State to the waters of the Nile River system.”
It was rejected by Sudan and Egypt, because it does not grant Egypt and Sudan veto rights over Nile projects.
Additional reporting by Youssef Ayoub and Bishoy Ramzy