The Effects of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Egypt
By: Raneem Ghunaim/Arab America Contributing Writer
Egypt has been tied to the Nile for decades, and some may even say it is the gift of the Nile. Egypt is associated with the river, which supplies it with a long strip of fertile soil extending across the desert. Egyptians fear that the impact of building over the dam will cause harm to the country. If the dam collapses, it could cause death to part of Egypt’s fertile agricultural lands. Similarly, it would also cause harm to Sudan, specifically parts of the country that might go completely underwater. The situation and lack of agreement arose many concerning questions. Is Ethiopia filling up the dam renaissance without an agreement for declaration of war? According to BBC, Ethiopia declared that it will be filling the Nahdha Dam in July. If they go through with it, does that mean Ethiopia will gain full control of the Blue Nile?
What Is Happening?
Ethiopia is planning on building on the Nahdha Dam. If Ethiopia goes through with this plan, Egypt and Sudan fear that if any damage happens with the dam, both countries: Egypt and Sudan may be badly impacted.
Egypt and Sudan are against this idea and are trying to convince Ethiopia not to go through with the filling up of the dam. However, Ethiopia argues that building on and filling the dam is extremely beneficial for their economy, and they do not think the dam would collapse. Relations between Ethiopia and Egypt have been on the edge ever since Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, began construction in 2011 of the controversial Renaissance Dam. The dam will become Africa’s largest source of hydropower.
To put things in perspective, this is how massive this dam is: according to International Rivers, the dam size ranges to about 145m high and 1,708m long. Reservoir size: floods 1,680 sq km; holds about 70 bn cubic meters of water (equivalent to the annual flow of Blue Nile at the Sudan border). Dam Cost: US$4.8bn (equal to about 15% of Ethiopia’s GDP in 2012, and about 60% of the annual budget). One Egyptian dam expert believes the cost could expand to $7bn. Resettlement: At least 20,000 people. This dam is located on the Blue Nile, which is about 20 miles from the Sudan border. Nevertheless, Sudan would suffer significantly if the dam were to collapse.
In reference to the map above, if Ethiopia was to build the dam, the water supply to both Sudan and Egypt would significantly decrease because the Nile starts in South Africa and goes up north. This dam would give full control of the water supply to Ethiopia (only for the Blue Nile, the White Nile water supply would still go through both Eygpt and Sudan). Regardless, the water supply would go down and both countries would suffer from these actions.
What If The Dam Collapses?
This long tension between the two countries has now moved to an escalated phase. Ethiopia announced to continue filling its huge dam reservoir. Addis Ababa keeps on defending their project saying the dam is important for their economy. Cairo fears it will affect the amount of Nile water that provides almost all of Egypt’s water needs, which could reach 90% of its water supply. If the dam does collapse, Egypt predicts its country will face severe drought. As mentioned earlier both Egypt and Sudan (especially Sudan) will suffer significantly if the dam collapses. The tremendous amount of water will cause a lot of damage to Sudan as parts of it will even be fully underwater.
Egypt on the other hand is trying to make agreements with Ethiopia to stop building on the dam. In every case, Ethiopia makes the argument that building the dam is very beneficial to their economy. There are some possibilities that Egypt might have to take military actions, but this is only a small chance. The problem between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia is still presented in Washington.
What are the options?
Egypt and Sudan reached out to the UN to get this issue resolved. Moreover, they came up with the following solutions: if both Egypt and Sudan go back on their disagreement and get on board with Ethiopia’s plan, each country will get some benefits in return. Sudan will receive what they need from the energy powered by the dam currents. As for Egypt, they would gain water resources provided by Ethiopia. In other words, these benefits are dependent on Ethiopia, which could create more issues in the future. If Egypt were to agree, they would lose their history of the Nile since Ethiopia wants to build a dam that takes a huge portion of the river. The UN Security Council will meet to discuss the Ethiopian Dam dispute.
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