CAIRO: Egypt is studying alternatives to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) studies after Dutch consultancy firm Deltares withdrew, citing conditions that do not guarantee “an independent high-quality study.”
Minister of Irrigation Hossam Moghazy met Tuesday with experts on the Nile Basin and the Egyptian members of the Tripartite National Committee (TNC) negotiating the dam to discuss possible actions after Deltares’s withdrawal after three months of negotiations, MENA reported.
What are Egypt’s options?
Egypt may propose selecting another consultancy firm that applied to the tender, informed sources at the Irrigation Ministry told MENA Tuesday. Five firms had reached the final step, including the winning firms Deltares and French BRLi.
Another possibility is to invite Deltares and BRLi to a meeting with the tripartite committee to amend the conditions opposed by Deltares.
Such a meeting would be held by the end of October, as Ethiopia refused an Egyptian request to hold an urgent meeting due to an ongoing formation of a new government in Addis Ababba. Deltares’s withdrawal extends prolonged talks that have lasted for over a year and a half between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Experts advised Moghazy to hold a meeting between the leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to negotiate the filling and administration of the dam and cancel the studies to save time, according to MENA.
The sources ruled out the option that Egypt and Sudan agree to BRLi solely taking over the studies.
Ethiopia and BRLi
On Tuesday, Youm7 quoted sources handling the GERD case at the Irrigation Ministry that Ethiopia insists that BRLi conducts the study on its own because, the sources claimed, it cooperates with Ethiopia in other projects and has “intertwined relations” with the country.
Ethiopia had proposed that Deltares act as a subcontractor and only execute what is assigned to it by BRLi without exceeding 30 percent of the work, according to the sources.
Alaa Yassin, adviser to Moghazy, said in a Tuesday statement that technical disputes occurred between Deltares and BRLi on the means to carry out a study on the impact of GERD on the downstream states.
Deltares said in its withdrawal statement that “the conditions as imposed by the TNC and BRLi on how the studies should be carried out did not provide sufficient guarantee for Deltares that an independent high-quality study could be carried out.”
What if negotiations fail?
The Nile Basin Group of Cairo University held a Wednesday meeting, recommending that technical talks “have been exhausted” and another political initiative should be led by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
The group said that if Egypt continues in the path to talks it would not reach a satisfactory solution; BRLi would present “biased studies,” and another tender would postpone a feasible study for a year; meanwhile Ethiopia continues to build the dam, and consultancy firms may not apply due to conflicts in the case.
Hany Raslan, head of the Nile Basin unit at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Youm7 Monday that Sisi should launch another political initiative. In case it was not appropriately received, Egypt should file a legal and technical complaint to the Security Council, declare the failure of negotiations, and expose Egypt’s efforts to achieve a fair solution versus “Ethiopia’s evasiveness” before regional and international opinion.
After months of stalled negotiations, Sisi inked a “declaration of principles” with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir; the declaration stated that none of the signatory states would impede the development of one another.
Sisi also delivered a speech before the Ethiopian parliament in March. He told Desalegn that Egypt is ready to be a “gateway” for Ethiopia, which is landlocked, and offered that, in addition to Egyptian investments, his country’s economic conferences serve as means for Ethiopia to attract foreign investments.
What are the risks of GERD on Egypt?
The 15 experts of the group claimed the motive behind GERD is political, rather than developmental, as it aims to control the Nile water to damage Egypt’s economic, political, social and security conditions, limiting its regional role, especially since Ethiopia plans to build more dams on the Blue Nile, the Atbarah River and the Sobat River.
Constructions works of six dams, including the GERD, began in Ethiopia following the Egyptian January 25 Revolution in 2011.
The group claimed that the impact of GERD would be permanent, and not only during the filling of the Ethiopia’s dam; Nasser Lake, Egypt’s strategic water reservoir, would be used to compensate for the lack of water during filling the GERD, and would not have a chance to be completely refilled after that.
It would only be partially full during the flooding seasons, while the Egypt’s High Dam would be drained during drought seasons, reducing its ability to secure water and electricity, the group of experts said.
The Cairo University group predicted that the direct consequences of establishing GERD in the Ethiopian plan would include the deterioration of large areas of farmland into wasteland, reducing the water table, increasing the mix of sea water in the delta and salinization of its lands, lack of drinking water, increasing pollution in the river in Egypt, and jeopardizing national fish stocks.
The size and height of the Renaissance dam is “exaggerated,” its efficiency in producing electricity does not justify this size, and its revenue of selling electricity may not cover its expenses, the Cairo University group claimed.
Ethiopia, which holds the second largest population in Africa, says that the dam is necessary for its development and would benefit neighboring countries by delivering cheap power. Egypt is the most populous Arab state, and holds third largest population among African nations.
Additional reporting by Asmaa Nassar.