Nile: Sudan’s support for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project
President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan, receiving the credentials of Ethiopia’s newly appointed Ambassador Abadi Zemo, said the Sudan government understood the mutual benefits that the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project could offer Ethiopia and Sudan. He said he would extend the necessary support to ensure the massive hydro-power project would be successfully completed. Last year, when Prime Minister Meles laid the corner stone of the Renaissance Dam, he pointed out that the Dam would significantly reduce the problems of silt and sediment that consistently affect dams on the Abay (the Blue Nile) in both Egypt and Sudan. These have been a particularly acute problem at Sudan’s Rosseiries dam producing a substantial reduction in output. Equally, when the Renaissance Dam becomes operational, communities all along the riverbanks and surrounding areas, particularly in Sudan, will be permanently relieved from centuries of flooding. In addition, Sudan and Egypt will have the opportunity to obtain increased power supplies at competitive prices. The Renaissance Dam will also increase the amount of water resources available, reducing the wastage from evaporation which has been another serious problem for the downstream countries. The Dam will in fact ensure a steady year-round flow from the Nile. This, in turn, should have the potential to amicably resolve the differences which currently exist among riparian states over the issue of equitable utilization of the resource of the Nile waters.
This is how the Sudanese Minister of Water Resources, Professor Sief El Din Hamad Abdallah, also sees it. At a Forum organized by the Sudanese Bar Association in cooperation with the Ministry of Water Resources on Saturday 31st March to discuss the Cooperative Framework Agreement between the Nile Basin Countries and the impact of the independence of South Sudan, Professor Sief stressed that if even some dams were erected in Ethiopia without prior consultation in the end they all served Sudan’s interests, reducing the flow of mud that accompanies Nile waters, improving possibilities for river navigation and electricity production and helping control floods. Professor Sief noted that Sudan was now buying electricity from Ethiopia at greatly reduced prices.
He also emphasized that the water storage capacity of dams in Sudan will benefit from dams in Ethiopia. He noted that the accumulation of silt in downstream dams was a main concern for Sudan as well as Egypt. Indeed, he said Sudan spends about US$12 million to remove mud from the irrigation channels of the Gezira Scheme. The accumulation of silt at the Egyptian High Dam in Aswan had now reached 6 billion cubic meters. Some people even affirmed that the problem of the Nile Basin has nothing to do with any possible scarcity of water resources but rather the high evaporation of the water from source to outlet in the Mediterranean. This is no less than 85 percent of the total.
Professor Sief said that Ethiopian dams on the Nile, if constructed on the basis of mutual consultation and consideration would be beneficial for both parties. Indeed, in some cases, he said, Sudan might benefit more than Ethiopia as the quantities of silt would be drastically reduced bringing an end to the costly process of removing it from dam reservoirs. For example, after the building of a dam in Ethiopia, the Atbara river resources had increased by ten times. Professor Sief emphasized that one solution to the problem of resources was reducing evaporation. He cited the example of the 590 billion cubic meters of resources from the Equatorial Lakes Basin of which only 15 billion cubic meters reached the River Nile itself. Reasonable recovery of this lost quantity or of some of it at least, would make a big difference to the development of the Nile Basin countries and help resolve any disputes and disagreements.
Prime Minister Meles stressed last year that the Renaissance Dam would offer mutual beneficial opportunities to Sudan and to Egypt as well as Ethiopia. Indeed, he suggested, one might therefore expect these countries to be prepared to share the costs proportionally, with Sudan offering to cover 30 per cent and Egypt 20 per cent of the project. It now seems that some such commitment is being reflected in Sudan. Last year Sudan donated about 170 million birr worth of machinery to assist hydropower projects in Ethiopia. This commitment to assist development projects underway in Ethiopia underlines the maturity of the relationship between the two countries. It suggests that riparian countries have to begin to understand the fundamental principle underlying Ethiopia’s Nile policies: mutual benefit for all riparian countries. Ethiopia in fact is working to strengthen regional cooperation to serve the interests of Sudan, of Ethiopia and of Egypt. The Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation has now completed the transmission lines to make Sudan the second country to benefit from Ethiopia’s export of power. The 296 kilometre transmission link has a 230 kilovolt capacity and will start operations this year.
Today, the relationship between Ethiopia and Sudan demonstrates a significant degree of interdependence. It can be seen as an example for the Horn of Africa and indeed more widely. Understanding the huge potential in joint natural resource management and agricultural investment projects as well as in the free exchange of goods and services along the more than thousand kilometre-long border, means that both countries are working steadily to strengthen their relationship for their mutual benefit. There is no doubt that construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will further strengthen this relationship.
Source: A Week in the Horn – April 13, 2012 issue
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