Author: Dr. Mohamad Zreik (IFIMES)
Water is essential to life. Water resources were the main determinant of human stability and residence. However, the geographical distribution of water resources varies as a result of the political, social and economic changes that the world has undergone, in addition to climatic changes and the increased demand for water due to drought and the increase in population.
In view of all this, water problems are exacerbated, especially among countries that suffer from scarce water resources, in addition to the uneven distribution, the large amount of waste, and the lack of attention to water conservation. Therefore, the World Water Commission took the initiative to formulate a vision for water, life and the environment, which can be summed up as follows: “Water is life, and every person, present and future, should have access to clean and sufficient drinking water, and work should be done to provide sufficient water to meet these basic requirements in an equal manner.” Accordingly, the problem of water resources has received wide attention, and strategic reports and studies indicate the increasing exacerbation of the water problem and its impact on international relations.
This study addresses a contemporary water crisis that emerged in the African continent between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan against the background of Ethiopia’s start to build the Renaissance Dam to generate electricity, as the Egyptians became increasingly concerned about its impact on the flow of the Nile water and the detraction of their share of it.
Several Arab and African countries are, directly or indirectly, part of this conflict, in addition to Israel and the US which are main and influential actors. The research aims to explain the water dilemma using the historical and inductive approach to produce results that would clarify the causes of the crisis and shed light on the solutions received, and addressing this issue from a perspective of international relations.
The research paper concluded with a few results and recommendations that were clarified in the conclusion, pointed to the necessity of adopting peaceful and diplomatic methods in dealing with the crisis and sharing water in a fair manner.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project
The Ethiopian government has started building the Renaissance Dam or the Millennium Dam (in Amharic: Hadas Gadeb) on the Blue Nile in the state of Benishqul-Gumuz near the Ethiopian-Sudanese border, at a distance of between 20-40 km, and upon completion, it is expected to become the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. It is one of three dams built for the purpose of generating hydroelectric power in Ethiopia.
The construction of this dam aims to increase electric power. It consists of a main dam with a height of 145 meters and a side dam with a height of 50 meters. Its storage capacity is 74 billion cubic meters. It includes a 6000-megawatt generating station, with a barrier length of 1800 meters. Its cost is 4.78 billion US dollars. The project employs about 4,225 people, including 2,905 local workers.
During a survey of the Blue Nile conducted between 1956 and 1964, the final location of the Renaissance Dam was determined by the United States Office of Reconnaissance (one of the US Departments of State). In August 2010, the Ethiopian government carried out a survey of the site, and in the same year the design of the dam was completed. On March 31, 2011, one day after the announcement of the project, a contract worth $4.8 billion was awarded without competitive bidding to the Italian company “Salini Costratori”. Under former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the foundation stone of the dam was laid and a rock crusher was built along with a small airstrip for rapid transport.
On April 15, 2011, the Ethiopian Cabinet renamed the dam the “Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam”, after it was initially called “Project X” and after the project contracts were announced, it was called the “Millennium Dam”.
The dam has benefits that can be summed up in the production of hydroelectric power. The electricity that was produced by the hydroelectric power station is sold to Ethiopia and neighbouring countries such as Sudan and possibly Egypt, which will require building huge transmission lines. Since the Blue Nile is a highly seasonal river, the dam will reduce flooding, including 40 km from the interior of Ethiopia.
However, the damage that the dam can cause is numerous, as many experts believe that the construction of the Renaissance Dam will lead to a set of negative effects now and in the future, on both Egypt and Sudan.
This is represented in the loss of Egypt to large areas of agricultural land due to the receding of the floods in the river valley downstream, and thus will deprive the fields of water. In addition to this, the electricity of the High Dam, Aswan Reservoir, and Esna Barrages has decreased, and many drinking water plants located on the Nile have stopped, and many industries have stopped, as well as the impact of gas-powered electricity plants that depend on cooling from the waters of the Nile River, and the deterioration of water quality in the northern lakes. In addition to Egypt’s inability to meet its water needs, and thus its profound social impact on millions of peasant families, Egyptian sources indicate that the insistence of the Ethiopian side to proceed with building the Millennium Dam project with the current specifications will inevitably lead to compromising the national security of both Sudan and Egypt.
This information confirms the inability of the dam to withstand the pressure of the huge waters that will be held behind it, as it is built of cement, and then it may collapse at any time, leading to the sinking of northern Sudan and southern Egypt. This is what the international expert and professor of water resources and irrigation at Cairo University, Dr. Nader Nour El-Din, believes, as it is expected that its life span ranges between 25 and 50 years due to severe siltation (420,000 cubic meters annually) and the subsequent major problems of electricity generation turbines and a decrease in the efficiency of the dam. Gradually, as the dam’s chances of collapsing are increasing as a result of geological factors and the rapid rush of the Blue Nile waters, which in some periods of the year (September) reach more than half a billion cubic meters per day, which threatens to destroy most Sudanese villages and cities, especially Khartoum, which may be swept away by water in a manner similar to the 2011 Japan tsunami, and the dam would increase the chances of an earthquake in the area where the reservoir is formed due to the weight of the water that was not present before in the area with the cracked rocky environment.
Studies indicate that the collapse of the dam could erase the dams built by Sudan as a result of its construction on a very rugged area, also indicate that the collapse of the dam will not pose a threat to Ethiopia, because it will be built on the outskirts of its border with Sudan.
Perhaps the main harm that the Egyptians and Sudanese are counting on lies in the serious water deficit that will result from filling the reservoir. Reports indicate that storing 74 billion cubic meters of water destined for Egypt and Sudan through the Blue Nile will threaten the destruction of Egyptian lands, especially since Egypt suffers from water poverty and the dam would lead to reducing its water share significantly, and some experts even expect very serious economic, political and social problems, as Dr. Dia El-Din El-Qusi, an international water expert asserts: “Ethiopia’s construction of the Renaissance Dam alone will lead to a decrease in Egypt’s share of water by 9 to 12 billion meters cubic per year” and will cause the destruction of about 5 million acres and the displacement of 6 million farmers, and this may result in famine and social problems that are impossible to control. In other words, by 2050, Egypt will need 21 billion cubic meters above its current quota to meet the water needs of its population, which is expected to reach 150 million people.
Finally, the cost of compensating for the water shortage in Egypt, resulting from the construction of the dam in view of the decreasing and expected reduction of Egypt’s share, will cost it about 50 billion pounds annually to desalinate sea water.
It is no secret to anyone that this dam would ignite political conflicts and tensions between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
The Supervising Committee of the Dam Project and its Results
In view of Egypt and Sudan’s concerns about this controversial project, and in order to create trust between the three parties, Ethiopia suggested the possibility of forming a tripartite and international committee to review and evaluate the dam’s study reports and the extent of its impact on Egypt and Sudan’s share of the Nile water. The committee consists of two experts from Ethiopia, two experts from Sudan, two experts from Egypt, in addition to four international experts in the fields of dam engineering, water resource planning, hydrological and environmental works, and social and economic impacts of dams, from Germany, France and South Africa.
The committee held its fourth meeting in Addis Ababa in November 2012 and reviewed documents on the environmental impact of the dam and visited the dam site. It submitted its initial report to the concerned governments at the end of May 2013, and although the full report was not publicly presented, the Ethiopian government stated that according to the report, the design of the dam is based on international standards and principles without naming those standards and principles. It also said that it does no harm to Sudan and Egypt, and provides a high benefit to the three countries combined. It significantly reduces silt in Sudan and Egypt, prolongs the life of dams in the downstream countries, prevents flooding in Sudan and reduces evaporation, as it regulates the flow of water throughout the year and provides neighbouring countries with electric power at an attractive price. There are also other benefits that include irrigation, fisheries and environmental conservation, but the assessment may differ for other countries.
According to the Egyptian government, the report “recommends changing and modifying the dimensions and size of the dam.”
Although the decisions of this committee are not binding, Egypt can move at all levels, especially since the results of the technical report showed that there are not enough studies to build the giant dam with the testimony of international experts, which reinforces the thesis of the dam’s collapse and its disastrous impact on Egypt and Sudan.
The doubts are increased by the Ethiopian side’s regression of the commitments it made to itself since the establishment of an evaluation committee, as it has been delaying and evading from one round to another and has not submitted the documents and studies on which it relied before embarking on this giant project, and the committee did not obtain the documents pledged by the Ethiopian government. It is likely that the committee will make amendments to the dam in order to avoid the huge mistakes made by the Ethiopian side in initiating the project without the presence of sound studies from a competent authority.
In light of Ethiopia’s anticipation of the decision of the commissioned tripartite committee, and its imposition of its project as a new fait accompli, by announcing the diversion of the Blue Nile to start construction works for the Millennium Dam, in addition to its use of the method of “camouflage and strategic deception” in managing the Nile Basin file and evasion to gain time, the Egyptian concern increased, and the leaders suggested Political methods in Egypt to destroy the dam. However, Morsi’s previous government called in its statement to encourage good neighbourliness, mutual respect and the pursuit of common interests without harming any of the other parties, with the right to resort to all options because water security in Egypt can never be violated.
After all of the above, is there a greater beneficiary as a result of this tripartite conflict over the issue of water in the Nile Basin, and what is the way to reach an agreement on a formula satisfactory to all parties?
Round table: Egypt and its relationship with the Nile Basin countries
At the outset, it is necessary to clarify what is meant by the international watercourse, which is a stream whose parts are distributed among different countries, and whose waters usually flow towards a common estuary point. As for the states of the watercourse, they are the states in whose territory there is a part of this international watercourse.
The history of resorting to diplomacy to negotiate water sharing goes back to a long time, because water is not a static entity like land that can be demarcated with political borders. Therefore, governments accepted the idea that the content of the rivers and the current aquifers are considered collective property, and it is not possible to ascertain who owns them.
More than 260 river basins, each shared by a number of countries, requires equitable use of the waters of these basins, entering into negotiations and concluding international agreements.
The Nile River is the main source of water in Egypt, through which Egypt obtains an annual share of 55.5 billion cubic meters. The Nile Basin is a name given to ten African countries through which it passes: Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, and Egypt, in addition to the state of Eritrea as an observer.
As a result of the enormous potential provided by the Nile River as the longest river in the world with a total length of 6650 km, it was coveted by the colonial powers in the nineteenth century. Because Egypt’s relationship with the Nile is essential and eternal, as it is referred to as “Egypt is the gift of the Nile,” it is worth highlighting the agreements regulating the use of the Nile’s waters. Since ancient times, Egypt has sought to organize its relationship with the Nile Basin countries and permanent contact with them to agree on the best method for exploiting the Nile’s waters. Indeed, Egypt succeeded in this by concluding several agreements, whether bilateral or regional, amounting to 15 agreements, which had an impact on the current relations between the basin countries.
Five of these agreements regulate the relationship between Egypt and Ethiopia, from whose plateau 85% of the total share of Egypt’s Nile water comes from, and they are as follows:
- The Rome Protocol signed on April 15, 1891 between Britain and Italy, where the latter pledged not to establish any installations for irrigation purposes on the Atbara River that might affect the behaviour of the Nile.
- The Addis Ababa Agreement signed on May 15, 1902 AD between Britain and Ethiopia, in which the second emperor, Menelik II, King of Ethiopia at that time pledged not to build any facilities on the Blue Nile, Lake Tana, or the Sobat River that would interfere with the flow of the Nile waters, except with the approval of the British government and the government Sudanese in advance
- The London Agreement signed on January 13, 1906 between Britain, France and Italy, and stipulates that these countries work together to secure the entry of the waters of the Blue Nile and its tributaries into Egypt.
- The Rome Agreement, which is a set of letters exchanged between Britain and Italy in 1925, in which Italy recognizes the acquired water rights of Egypt and Sudan and pledges not to carry out works on them that would reduce the amount of water heading towards the main Nile.
- The framework of cooperation that was signed in Cairo on July 1, 1993 between the former Egyptian President and the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and stipulated that neither country should undertake any activity on the Nile that would harm the interests of other countries and the need to preserve and protect the waters of the Nile, respecting international laws and consulting between the two countries; there are opportunities to establish projects that increase the volume of water flow and reduce losses.
As for the equatorial plateau which is the second source of Nile water and reaches 15% and includes six countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. The water relationship between them and Egypt is regulated by a number of agreements, the most important of which are:
- The London Agreement of May 1906 between Britain and the Congo, which stipulates that the Congolese government undertake not to establish any works on the Semliki River or the Asango River that would reduce the volume of water flowing into Lake Albert, unless an agreement is reached with the Government of Sudan.
- The 1929 agreement, which consists of two exchanged letters between the Egyptian Prime Minister at the time and the British High Commissioner Lloyd, and stipulates that irrigation and generation works should not be carried out without a prior agreement with the Egyptian government that would reduce the amount of water that reaches Egypt. The agreement also stipulates Egypt’s natural and historical right to Nile water.
- The London Agreement signed on 23 AD 1934 between Britain on behalf of Tanzania and Belgium on behalf of Rwanda and Burundi and related to the use of the Kagera River by both countries.
- The 1953 agreement signed between Egypt and Britain on behalf of Uganda regarding the construction of the “Owen” reservoir at the exit of Lake Victoria. One of the most important points of the agreement, Britain pledged on behalf of Uganda that the construction and operation of the power plant would not reduce the amount of water reaching Egypt or reducing its level to cause any harm to Egypt’s interest.
- The 1991 agreement between Egypt and Uganda. Among its contents, Uganda affirmed its respect for what was stated in the 1953 agreement.
Last but not least, there are two agreements regulating the water relationship between Egypt and Sudan:
- The 1929 agreement regulating the water relationship between Egypt and the countries of the equatorial plateau. It also included the approval of the Egyptian government to pay attention to the reconstruction of Sudan and to increase the quantities used by Sudan from the Nile water without prejudice to Egypt’s rights, and not to be established without a previous agreement with the Egyptian government. The Nile and its branches may reduce the amount of water, modify the date of its arrival, or reduce its level. Sudan, for its part, provides all facilities to the Egyptian government to conduct water studies and research on the Nile River in Sudan.
- The 1959 agreement, which was signed in Cairo between Egypt and Sudan, and came as a complement to the 1929 agreement and not nullified it, as it includes full control of the Nile waters that reach both Egypt and Sudan in light of the new changes that appeared on the scene at the time, such as the desire to build the High Dam and Upper Nile projects to increase the river’s revenue and the establishment of a number of reservoirs in Aswan. The agreement for the full use of the Nile water includes items, the most important of which are: Egypt’s retention of its acquired right to the Nile, which amounts to 48 billion cubic meters annually, as well as Sudan’s right, estimated at four billion cubic meters annually, and the two countries’ approval of Egypt’s construction of the High Dam.
The important and growing role of water in the scope of international relations is due to many factors, including the suffering of the world for three decades from the two phenomena of drought and desertification, especially in some countries of the South, and the aggravation of the food problem in many countries located in the southern hemisphere necessitates the development of other alternatives to provide food, such as expansion horizontal agricultural. In addition to the steady increase in the use of water for industrial purposes, in addition to the infinite demand for it, and the phenomenon of population explosion, which is now foreshadowing the occurrence of many problems, which requires the need to expand economic development projects in order to absorb the population increase and provide food sources.
The United Nations reports indicate that the world’s population will be about 10 billion in 2050, meaning the increase will be from now about 2 billion. These factors make countries move towards building diplomatic relations with each other and consequently concluding agreements and treaties in order to access water in fair ways that satisfies all parties. As Ethiopia is one of the parties, it is considered the first of the Nile Basin countries in terms of its demand to reconsider and describe the Nile water agreements. With previous agreements signed on its behalf by the colonial countries, which are the highest Nile Basin countries in water resources, they are the ones that supply the Nile with about 84% of the water that reaches Aswan.
Therefore, Ethiopia’s view was characterized by the fact that there were previous agreements, but they were concluded in different circumstances, and that the countries of the upper Nile River are not a party to them. After signing the 1959 agreement, Ethiopia retained its right to the Blue Nile, because Ethiopia’s natural rights to share a certain amount of water cannot be ignored, and the determination of The Ethiopian government insists on using its legitimate share of the Nile’s water and its readiness to negotiate with all the Nile countries for the fair distribution of the Nile’s water, because it contributes 72 billion cubic meters and is exposed to many droughts in separate areas that lead to famines.
The international and contemporary variables highlighted the issue of water as a source of conflict and the threat of war, as the borders of water resources do not agree with political borders, so extracting water from one side of the border may have a severe impact on the water supply on the other side.
Egypt considers the Nile the source of life for its people and seeks to adhere to the rights it has acquired from its waters and works hard to obtain good water resources so that it can keep pace with its population. Therefore, the waters of the Nile are considered one of the most important issues of Egyptian national security, and therefore all successive governments placed this issue among their priorities to ensure the removal of any threat to the flow of the Nile waters.
Therefore, when the Ethiopian government announced its intention to build the Renaissance Dam, this aroused the fear of the official opinion and the Egyptian public opinion.
It is worth noting here the Sudanese position, which was in favour of building the Renaissance Dam, after the meeting that took place between the water ministers in Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia in March 2012, where Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Al-Bashir stated that he supported the construction of the dam. On the Sudanese media level, opinions varied between supporters and opponents of this project, while clarifying some of the positive and negative effects of its establishment on the State of Sudan.
Egypt respects the aspirations of the Ethiopian people to generate electricity and raise the standard of living of its citizens, and looks forward to cooperation and joint development with Ethiopia and Sudan, but at the same time it reserves the right to life and the right to water as well as to others the right to development. After a meeting held by former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and leaders of Egyptian parties to discuss the report of the Tripartite Committee, some of them suggested that he resort to a military solution, destroy the dam and support the rebels against the Ethiopian government. Ethiopia only protested and requested an apology from Egypt, and the dialogue between the two countries stopped.
The situation changed completely after Morsi was removed and El-Sisi was elected president of Egypt, where the crisis witnessed a major breakthrough. El-Sisi held an important meeting with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia on the side-lines of the African Summit, in which the two countries affirmed their commitment to dialogue, cooperation, respect for international law and achieving common gains.
Following this new vision, the three countries held a round of negotiations at the end of August 2014 in the Sudanese capital, and the three countries agreed to complete studies related to the effects of the dam on the two downstream countries through a committee of national experts from the three countries, provided that the dispute would be resolved within a maximum period of 6 months. Its results are binding on everyone. Egypt stated through its Minister of Water Resources that, according to his observations during the visit to the Renaissance Dam, the current construction works are considered preliminary works that do not exceed 20% of the volume of works, indicating that the round of negotiations began in August 2014 and will not end before mid-2015, according to the roadmap. It is completely satisfied with the results of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam negotiations so far.
The Military Option or the Idea of Connecting the Congo River to Lake Nasser
It was noticeable that the announced Egyptian political discourse is characterized by the language of calm and patience, because the Egyptian-Ethiopian relations are not the result of the moment, but rather a historical and extended relationship.
With the Egyptian leadership ascertaining that the dam would deprive Egypt of its share in the Nile waters, voices were raised calling for the use of threatening language, and for air strikes against Ethiopia to stop the construction of the dam or to destroy it permanently if diplomacy failed to resolve the protracted crisis, but the commander of the Egyptian forces Major General Mohamed Ali Bilal, stressed that the Egyptian armed forces will not carry out any pre-emptive military operation to strike the Renaissance Dam, because there are no missiles or air forces that can strike the dams, as they need nuclear bombs to be demolished, and Ethiopia has not finished building The Renaissance Dam after that, meaning the absence of a military objective in the first place. So the idea is completely rejected because its destruction after its construction will lead to the sinking of Khartoum and Upper Egypt, in addition to that it will lead Egypt into conflicts as a result of the other side dealing a similar blow to the High Dam.
What increased the danger was that jihadist Salafism entered the crisis line, not allowing the construction of the Renaissance Dam. This is what led to the exclusion of the military option and to make room for negotiations and dialogue between all parties to spare the region from entering into a new world war.
After we ascertain the danger of rushing to use the military option to prevent the construction of the Renaissance Dam, it is necessary to move away from threatening military options, and replace them with studying projects that can address the crisis in a way that benefits all parties. As a study of the idea of connecting the Congo River to Lake Nasser; the Congo River is the second longest river in Africa after the Nile and the second largest in terms of water flow after the Amazon River. It loses more than 1248 billion cubic meters annually into the Atlantic Ocean and is close to the White Nile in Sudan.
The references concerned with water security indicated that the support for the Congo Dam, which was previously agreed upon between Egypt, Sudan and the Congo, represents a golden opportunity for the Egyptian administration to respond to the Ethiopian dam project. This project is summarized in the construction of a giant dam on the Congo River, most of whose water goes to the Atlantic Ocean, without benefiting doubly for the revenues of the Blue Nile, by linking the Congo River with Lake Nasser at a distance of 600 km and a height of 200 meters, which will provide Egypt with 95 billion cubic meters per year, or double the revenue current approx. It will also secure access to electric power with a capacity of 18,000 MW, ten times the High Dam.
The cost of the project ranges from 9 to 10 billion pounds, according to the feasibility study of the international American company “Arthur D. Little” and the Geological Survey. This seriously prompts the start of the executive procedures for this national project, which will benefit the three countries, especially since the Congo is fully sympathetic to Egypt and Sudan, and its position was honourable regarding the Entebbe Agreement, when it refused to sign it in solidarity with Egypt and Sudan. However, some experts underestimate the previous suggestion that there are technical, topographical and geological difficulties due to the rugged nature of the headwaters of the Congo River, and the matter needs further study.
Peaceful and developmental alternatives and solutions to the Renaissance Dam crisis
The first solution to the crisis lies in the diplomatic solution away from the military solution. At the political level, it is of great importance to move continuously and diligently to exchange relations and benefits with the basin countries in general and with Ethiopia in particular. Increasing the political representation of Egypt there, with a focus on choosing the members of the Egyptian diplomatic missions that will work there with great care, such as addressing the peoples there in their own language and style and according to their way of thinking, with the need to abandon the provocative Egyptian discourse of condescension to those peoples that has prevailed in recent years.
On the educational and cultural level, Egypt, by virtue of its regional and international position, can contribute by participating in the cultural and technical literacy of the people of these countries. Undoubtedly, such offers will bring long-term strategic benefits to Egypt, such as consolidating good relations.
Also, the establishment of Azharite institutes, branches of Cairo University, research centres and others in the Nile Basin countries will have a good effect in building the desired relations and will be a dam wall to confront the constant movements of enemies in this region.
In terms of the social aspect, Egypt can, by virtue of its experience, take an organized social action, such as establishing hospitals, social and youth care homes and homes for the elderly, in order to touch the conscience of the citizens in the Nile Basin countries, making them feel that Egypt is the older sister who sympathizes with them and provides them with help and assistance.
In a related context, it is possible to benefit from the economic aspect, which is a very important aspect, and it is possible to move in this direction on several tracks, the most important of which is the establishment of a free trade zone between those countries to encourage trade, the establishment of industrial and commercial projects, and the opening of branches of major Egyptian commercial and industrial establishments there and helping those countries in Development programs in a way that achieves for its people an adequate standard of living, and what this requires of land reclamation, clearing waterways, building bridges and dams, and paving roads.
All of the above is not absurd spending, but rather a long-term strategic investment that contributes to achieving national security for future generations.
Last but not least, Egypt, with its leadership in the media field, and its possession of satellites and media cadres, can approach dialogue and effective cooperation between the basin countries, in a way that consolidates historical relations, such as establishing a satellite channel for the Nile Basin countries that will serve as an intellectual and cultural container.
This is in addition to establishing multilingual radio stations to address these peoples with a media discourse that stems from and emphasizes historical relations.
Finally, training media cadres from the people of these countries in Egypt on a regular basis, through grants offered to them generously.
It is clear that water resources have a huge impact on the nature of international relations, especially among countries crossed by international rivers. Any neglect and lack of coordination between these countries inevitably leads to an exacerbation of the conflict over water resources.
Hence the importance of a diplomatic solution and joint cooperation, which is the basis for resolving issues, especially those related to water resources. This is proven by previous experiences in the fact that the joint management of water leads to sound and good relations. For example, we can refer to the agreement concluded in 1960 between India and Pakistan on the Indus River. Despite the outbreak of war twice since then between these two countries, this did not constitute No threat to stop the flow of water.
Here, it must be recognized that Ethiopia has the right to establish some development projects that it considers necessary to secure its water future, but this must be done by referring to the two downstream countries, that is, Sudan and Egypt, so that these projects do not affect the quantities of water received in Sudan and Egypt, or any other environmental influences.
All of this leads to the need to encourage confidence-building among the riparian countries, and for water resource projects to be in line with the policies of other governments.
With regard to this issue, the State of Ethiopia should ensure that the acquired rights of the two downstream countries are not violated, and that it should think about creating peaceful and multi-beneficial development alternatives for all conflicting countries instead of the conflict that does not bring results.
Dr. Mohamad Zreik has PhD of International Relations, he is independent researcher, his area of research interest is related to Chinese Foreign Policy, Belt and Road Initiative, Middle Eastern Studies, China-Arab relations. Author has numerous studies published in high ranked journals and international newspapers.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect IFIMES official position.
Ljubljana, 21 December 2021
 IFIMES – International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has Special Consultative status at ECOSOC/UN, New York, since 2018.
Comment by Reinhard Linz, former German Military Senior National Expert (SNE) on behalf of the EU Council and Liaison to the African Union in Addis Adeba/Ethopia from 2004 until 2009, sometimes included in water resources projects and married to an Ethiopian woman who voices some critisism and scepticism about the mega dam projects, the alleged win-win-situation, the alleged domestic financing of the projects and their real benefit for the population:
“The construction of mega dams has been „en vogue“ in Ethiopia for almost two decades. The first two were built by the Chinese, of which the later delivers 800,000 mega watts of electricity that the local and national power grid cannot process at all, since the oversupply meets an ailing power grid, starting with desolate substations, lines, transformers, etc. I know that problem very well when the grid collapses at peak times in the early evening and the private diesel generator has to be started with a lot of noise outside in the courtyard. The Chinese are indeed investing heavily in Africa, but they do not see it as selfless development aid; instead, their investments are mostly paid for by raw materials; at the end of the 90s, the US $ 6 million expensive port of Nouakchott / Mauritania for high fishing quotas off the coast (where a „overcompensation“ took place, because the Chinese fishing trawlers with canning processing on board remained out at sea and could not be controlled). I don’t know what was and is „paid for“ in Ethiopia (gold, coffee?). – No wonder that the USA has now launched another dam project „in competition“. Well what is the Ethiopian government doing? It has concluded a supply contract with Kenya, built overland lines and supplies electricity to Kenya for expensive foreign exchange, and now perhaps also to South Sudan … As always, the poor rural population of Ethiopia has to get by without enough electricity supply while the electricity above them is buzzing abroad … So the e-car in those countries remains a dream for a time after 100 years … I question the financing of such mega-projects with domestic funds. If you think about the fact that the GERD should cost around 4.2 billion USD, the state budget „income“ of Ethiopia p.a. in the last few years averaged around 2.7 billion USD, the „expenditures“ p.a. however at around 3.2 billion USD, and thus the debt is steadily increasing, there is not much scope for financing large-scale projects of this type. At the end of my time there in 2011, Ethiopia’s national debt abroad was around 5 billion USD.“