Officials from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia signed contracts for technical studies on the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) this week in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
The three states have now agreed that French consultants BRL and Artelia will carry out the studies on GERD’s impact on the flow of the Nile, while the British construction law firm Corbett & Co will overlook the legal affairs of the process, reports online Egyptian news site, Aswat Masriya.
Egypt’s Irrigation Minister, Mohamed Abdel-Aty, called the ceremony "historic", Aswat Masriya reported, citing the Middle East News Agency.
In December 2015 the three groups signed the "Khartoum Document" outlining a mechanism for resolving GERD related issues, and set a time frame of eight months to a year to complete the technical studies.
The trio are to split the costs of the studies equally among them, according to the Ethiopian foreign ministry.
The dam, already half built by Italian contractor Salini Impregilo, is the most important project in Ethiopia. The GERD hydroelectric power plant will have an installed capacity of 6,000 MW – more than double Ethiopia’s current generating capacity – and is central to the government’s plan to be a net power exporter to the electricity-starved continent.
Egypt, dependent on the Nile for water, is concerned about how the dam will affect the river’s flow.
The technical study itself has proved controversial.
It stalled last year after the Dutch research institute Deltares withdrew, stating that the conditions imposed by the three countries and BRL on how the study should be done "did not provide sufficient guarantee for Deltares that an independent high-quality study could be carried out".
Image: Rendering of the GERD by International Rivers, which takes a critical view of the project (Internationalrivers.org)