Egypt-Ethiopia, the Renaissance dam blows winds of war – La Stampa


FROM THE MAIL TO BEIRUT. The agreement reached in February with the mediation of the United States and the World Bank, and immediately signed by Egypt but not by Ethiopia, is already a memory. The Great Dam of Rebirth on the Blue Nile is once again at the center of an increasingly harsh, dangerous confrontation. Addis Ababa points to the feet and Cairo has asked the United Nations to intervene, after the last round of talks also failed. The $ 4 billion project has been completed and the dispute is over the filling times of the huge basin, five times the size of Lake Garda. Addis Ababa wants to hurry, Cairo would like it to take at least 25 years to fill it, so as not to drain the course of the Nile. The Egyptian foreign ministry communicated the decision in a dry note specifying that “the Arab Republic of Egypt has taken note of the stall in the negotiations due to Ethiopia’s not positive attitude”.

The February agreement was skipped

The dam is known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and is one of the largest infrastructure projects in Africa and the world, funded largely by the World Bank. A compromise was reached in February whereby the filling of the basin would continue for 21 years. It seemed done but now in Ethiopia she is no longer well. He wants to put the turbines of the power plant into operation as soon as possible and export electricity, his “white gold”. The project to mark a new era of economic integration of the Horn of Africa, development and cooperation. Instead Egypt today threatens to “use the army” if Ethiopia leaves it dry. The warnings, by senior officers and by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi himself, have been repeated in recent months.

A 6,000 megawatt power plant

Cairo was satisfied with the agreement mediated in February by the US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnunchin, and the President of the World Bank, David Malpass. The mediation intervened when, in September 2019, the Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele announced that he planned to fill the basin “in six years, starting from the next rainy season” to begin producing electricity “in December 2020” . Addis Ababa is one of Africa’s richest water countries but has a desperate need for energy and valuable currency. It aims to export electricity and launch its light industry, especially textiles, and to export electricity to South Sudan and Uganda. But Egypt receives 88 percent of the drinking water it consumes from the Nile and alone consumes 66 percent of the flow of the great river.

1.76 km long

The dam is 1.76 kilometers wide and was completed last year. Now we need to fill the artificial lake that will form behind it, on an area of ​​1874 square kilometers, five times that of Garda. In total it will contain 78 billion cubic meters of water. In Cairo they made two accounts. If Addis Ababa wanted to fill the basin in just four years, in order to immediately start operating all 16 turbines with a total of 6 thousand megawatts, Egypt would have lost 44 percent of the Nile flow: from 55.5 billion meters cubes per year for only 31. An unsustainable situation. For Cairo, keeping the flow of the Nile constant is a matter of life or death. Already today forced to recycle 25 billion cubic meters per year, in addition to importing half of the food it consumes due to the lack of sufficient irrigated fields.

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