After a decades-long monopoly over the Nile river, Egypt became defensive when Ethiopia stood up to reclaim its rightful share of water. In addition to making public a plan to build what is now known as the Grand Renaissance Dam in March this year, Ethiopia corralled several other Nile Basin countries in order to re-draft legislation that previously gave Egypt almost exclusive rights to the river that serves 160 million people. The trouble is, 83 million Egyptians depend on the Nile for nearly all of their water, which is why, after a lot of posturing on both sides, Egypt has finally made friends with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Rather than resist the massive dam project, which environmentalist groups such as International Rivers criticize on both environmental and social grounds, Egypt has decided to accept its potential benefits instead.
He said: “We can make the issue of the Grand Renaissance Dam something useful,” Al Jazeera reports. “This dam, in conjunction with the other dams, can be a path for development and construction between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.”
The two countries are starting a new chapter that involves a “path of development and construction,” a “win-win strategy,” according to the paper, which quotes Zenawi:
We have agreed to quickly establish a tripartite team of technical experts to review the impact of the dam that is being built in Ethiopia.
This marks a strong divergence from the Prime Minister’s former position, which was one of complete defiance. All requests to conduct independent environmental and social impact assessments were previously rejected, and the country excluded Egypt and Sudan from an initiative that would have reapportioned the river’s flow.
Ratification of a new treaty has been put on hold to give Egypt a chance to determine its position.
Although peace between Egypt and Ethiopia is certainly better than the alternative, hopefully this new friendship will not distract either country from the real issue: how can this dam be sustainably built so that future Egyptians and Ethiopians will also be able to benefit from the Nile?
:: Al Jazeera
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