New Ethiopian dam flares tensions over water access

Ethiopia is moving forward with the establishment of a new dam on the Blue Nile River, privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

The Mandaia Dam, which is planned to have a storage capacity of over 30 billion cubic meters of water, is the latest attempt to pressure Egypt into agreeing to the establishment of the Renaissance Dam.

In mid-February, Egypt said that it would drive publicity concerning the case to challenge Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam project “since its setting included technical glitches that could be threatening to the area,” Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources spokesperson Khaled Wassef claimed. 

Ethiopian media said that the country’s government finished plans to establish a second main dam on the Nile, irrespective of the rising tensions with Egyptian authorities.

“Members of the left-wing of Ethiopia’s ruling party are accusing the US of disturbing the balance in the region by supplying Egypt with F16 jets, as well as millions of dollars in military aid, which gave Egypt the courage to pressure the rest of the Nile Basin countries,” the Somalian Sun reported according to Al-Masry Al-Youm.

“There’s no need to acquire Egypt’s approval for establishing any dams in Ethiopia since Egypt previously established the High Dam without Ethiopia’s approval,” the newspaper added.

The new dam is another step in a larger plan for agricultural expansion in which outlying land would receive water from lakes located before the dams. The 6,000-megawatt Renaissance Dam, which heads a 63-billion cubic meter reservoir, is expected to generate three times the electricity generated by the Aswan High Dam and hold twice the amount of water held in Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake.

The head of the Renaissance Dam project said that “7,500 workers including 500 experts from 25 countries are working on the project around the clock to have the dam finished as soon as possible.”

Former Minister of Irrigation Nasr Eddin Allam said that the new Mandaia Dam is just one of four dams Ethiopia plans to build to acquire full control of the Nile, a “provocative” move according to Allam, who believes Egypt should focus on its legal rights and take official procedures based on international law.

Sources working on the Nile issue told Al-Masry Al-Youm that plans to build the Mandaia Dam are not new.

“The small dams on the Blue Nile are necessary to ease the water load on the Renaissance Dam, which decreases the chances of violent earthquakes in the area and decreases the levels of silt reaching the damn via floods, as well as optimizes the generation of hydroelectric power,” the newspaper’s sources said.    

Egypt meanwhile fears that the dam will affect its access to water. Ethiopia claims that fear is unfounded after year-long studies conducted by a 10-person International Tripartite Commission, including Egyptians, Sudanese and Ethiopians, confirmed that Egypt’s water access will not be greatly affected.

Egyptian authorities claim on the other hand that Egypt will experience extreme water stress by 2050. 

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