Hailed as a "breakthrough", Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have agreed to let scientists study the filling of Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam on the Nile River, for now easing Egypt’s fears of a water shortage.
Ministers from the three countries said Wednesday (16 May) that they will set up a scientific study group to advise on diverting part of the Nile to kick Ethiopia’s $5bn Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam into operation.
The group will study ways the dam can be filled without harming Egypt’s water supply.
Ministers also agreed that leaders from the three nations will meet every six months for consultations, reports The Associated Press (AP).
The agreement breaks a stalemate that set in in November last year when negotiations over the scope of impact studies broke down. Since then, tensions have mounted after repeated rounds of talks failed.
More high-level meetings are set for 3 July in Cairo.
Egypt fears too much of the Nile’s waters could be retained each year, affecting its agriculture, while Ethiopia views the dam as crucial to its national development.
Built by Italian contractor Salini Impregilo, the 6.4GW dam is now more than 60% complete. When operating, it will boost Ethiopia’s generating capacity, which stands now at 4GW, by 160%.
Ethiopia denies that the dam will hurt Egypt’s water supplies. The country says 60 million of its citizens have no access to electricity.
According to a document obtained by AP, the scientific group will develop "various scenarios related to the filling and operation rules in accordance with the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization of shared water resources while taking all appropriate measures to prevent the causing of significant harm."
"There was a progress in the negotiations with our brothers in Sudan and Ethiopia," Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in televised comments late Wednesday. "The matter will consume efforts and time to reach an understanding formula. There was a breakthrough."
Image: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, under construction on the Blue Nile, will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa (http://www.geosociety.org/)