ASOSA, ETHIOPIA— With a newly-signed deal on sharing Nile River waters with Egypt, Ethiopia is moving ahead with the continuing construction of Africa's largest hydro-power dam and the filling of a reservoir.
The Nile River is a source of life for several African countries and, for years, a source of tension between Ethiopia and Egypt. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, begun four years ago, threatened to raise those tensions, even sparking talk of war.
But Egypt, which along with Sudan long claimed near-exclusive rights to Nile waters, last week compromised in the face of reality, signing a regional pact on Nile water use.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi spoke to Ethiopia’s parliament last week on the need to share the Nile's waters equally.
Egypt fears its water flow will decrease, especially with Ethiopia filling a reservoir with 74 billion cubic meters of water. This will take 5-6 years, said the dam's project manager, Simegnew Bekele.
“The dockwater is extended up to 246 kilometers from the dam centerline and it will cover about 1874 square kilometers,” he added.
Not that Ethiopia ever let Egypt's concerns affect dam construction, said Ethiopia’s Water Minister Alemayehu Tegenu.
“The dam construction will never stop," he said. "We will continue negotiating on hiring of consultants and will continue negotiation on the process of studies, so [all these] processes will not affect the dam construction. The dam construction will continue.”
The first power-generating trials will start after the rainy season. Eventually the dam should have a capacity of 6,000 megawatts. Although construction is less than half-done, Minister Alemayehu said the project will be complete in 2017.
“The four years in [the] past — it was mobilization and camp construction and erection of plants; this has taken a long time. Now all activities are towards dam construction currently. So we’re 100 percent focused and capitalized on dam construction. So it is not difficult to finish the dam within two years time.”
The $5 billion-dam is being built without any foreign capital. The Ethiopian government is providing 90 percent of the money; the rest is coming from fundraising events across the country, such as bond selling, and concerts.