Experts on Middle Eastern hydro politics have described Ethiopia’s diverting a stretch of the Blue Nile to make way for a hydroelectric dam as “a unilateral move” that risked a regional war.
Speaking to the Anadolu Agency (AA), Hani Rislan, director of al-Ahram Political and Strategic Research Center Africa Unit said “Renaissance Dam is part of a giant project composed of 4 dams which will gather 200 billion cubic meters of water.”
Rislan said the project threatened Egypt with drought, a $4 million revenue loss in agriculture, unemployment of 2 million families and with compromising the potential of Egypt’s main hydroplant, the Aswan Dam.
Rislan said that Ethiopia’s “surprising decision” meant that the dam construction was pre-planned and it jeopardized possibility of cooperation between the three riparian states, the third being Sudan.
“Khartoum may submerge”
Professor Ala al-Zewahiri from Hydraulics Engineering Department of Cairo University said Egypt and Sudan do not face any immediate risks in the short-run but until after the construction of the dam was completed.
“In terms of geopolitics, the dam is constructed on an unfavorable location between two mountains, which would lead faults, causing Sudan’s capital Khartoum to submerge” said, al-Zewahiri.
Ethiopian move risks regional war
Salman Mohammed Ahmed Salman, a former advisor to UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and an expert on African water resources claimed that the diversion project could lead to a regional war.
Expressing his concern over the possibility that Egyptian radical militants and political figures’ might use the dam project as a pretext to attack Ethiopia and other riparian countries.
Ethiopia, the source of the Blue Nile, wants to take more water from the river, claiming it will meet its electricity and food supply. However, a 1929 agreement between Egypt and Britain as guarantor state gives Egypt most of the Nile’s waters.
Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) in 1999 was designed in order to solve the problems between upstream and downstream countries. As it failed, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, as riparian states, signed Entebbe Agreement in 2010 envisaging that all riparian states have the right to access to the Nile.
While South Sudan is also expected to be part of the agreement shortly, Egypt and Sudan, acting together, are opposed to the agreement on the grounds that it harmed their vital water resources.