French firms to conduct studies on impact of dam on river Nile.
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have selected two French firms to conduct studies on the potential impact of Ethiopia's controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the flow of the river Nile, following a deal signed in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on 29 December.
The agreement to commission project management companies BRL Group and Artelia follows a tentative co-operation deal signed in Khartoum on 23 March. That deal outlined regional principles involving the Nile water being shared by the three nations who also pledged to resolve any potential disputes by peaceful means.
The countries have been in high-level negotiations since 2013, and the latest agreement comes following prolonged discussions between the foreign and water ministers of the three countries involved.
Technical studies on the impact of the $4 billion dam, which is located in the Benishangul-Gumuz region about 40 km east of the Sudan border, will start in February, and are expected to take between six and 15 months. The three nations' foreign and water ministers are also scheduled to meet again in February.
Although the impact studies have yet to even begin, officials say that some 50 per cent of the 6,000-MW dam is already completed, undertaken by major Italian construction firm Salini.
Previously Egypt had expressed grave concerns on the impact of Ethiopia’s enormous hydroelectric project, as Egyptians rely on the Nile for agriculture and almost all of their drinking water.
Egypt has long held veto rights over all upstream water projects, following a 1929 colonial-era agreement with Britain. A subsequent deal in 1959 saw Egypt share its Nile water rights with neighbouring Sudan. That agreement granted Egypt 55.5 billion cubic metres of water, and Sudan 18.5, out of an annual total of 74 billion cubic metres of water.
The latest developments in regional co-operation over the dam come as Ethiopia experiences food shortages, power cuts and drought across the country.