Awash Teklehaimanot, PhD, MPH Feb 11, 2020
Great respect is due to the Ethiopian people who championed the construction of Hedase Dam, commitment of the professionals in the area, in particular the Technical Team under the leadership of Engineer Shileshi and the overall government coordination of the project. This project would not have been realized had it not been for the commitment of every Ethiopian who pooled its resources for this important cause.
A number of Ethiopians have expressed their concern that there is extreme pressure on Ethiopia to conclude expeditiously an agreement which may infringe on its sovereignty and on its rightful use of its resources. The recent explanation given by the Technical Team even thou were not specific on what is agreed upon on Ethiopian side on the volume of water to be released and on the number years to fill the dam, the teams commitment was re assuring.
The Technical Team has expressed that it will develop a comprehensive documentation covering all issues during these years of negotiations to be part of the signed agreement document. This is a great idea as all the important aspects will be laid down in detail. I assume the following will be some of the issues to be specified:
1. The Ethiopian Abay river (Blue Nile) generates over 85 % of the water flow of Nile;
2. A country of 105 Million people with significant percentage who live below poverty line;
3. Over 70% of the people without access to electricity and depend on firewood and kerosene lamp.
4. Due to extreme poverty, the Ethiopian farmers do not have access to modern tools and technologies and are still dependent on oxen driven farming system and rain-fed agricultural methods. The Country is food deficit and millions depend on external food aid every year. To mitigate the chronic food shortage, Ethiopia will have to use its water resources for irrigation.
5. Previous efforts to secure funding for water resources development from international agencies such as the World bank was not successful. It was because of such lack of support from the international agencies, that the Ethiopian People decided to build the Hedase Dam out of their meager resources.
6. Ethiopia has the sovereign right to use its natural resources to provide electricity for domestic use, to develop farming implement and initiate cottage industries to improve the livelihood of about 70 Million people and to get out of poverty.
7. The issue of drought was mentioned, and it is to be clarified well not to leave any ambiguity that would cause future misunderstanding. Draught or dry season is relevant in this case for Ethiopia where drought conditions would affect the volume of water River Abay could generate during that season. If that Happens, an agreement has to be made what proportion of the water that was generated during the dry season will be released to downstream countries and what percentage will Ethiopia has to retain. In this context, it has to be clear, that water generated during the drought season will be shared among the three countries. However, Ethiopia do not have an obligation to release water from what was collected during the previous years.
8. The agreement is only for Hedase Dam water use and will not include any water resources in the country
9. Ethiopia has the right to use its water resources outside the Hedase dam as it sees it fit
10. Egypt and Sudan have to agree in this agreement to utilize theNile water resource wisely
11. Egypt and Sudan firm commitment not to undertake any diversion of the Nile river from its natural course be part of this agreement
12. The downstream countries have the right to use the Nile water and share it with Ethiopia and any attempt to get a lion's share is not faire and Ethiopia should not agree to such binding demand.
I am sure the Technical Team and the leadership is aware of these issues more than of us who are not involved in the project. This is just to give a feedback of what concerned people are discussing and worrying.
The Hedase dam is being constructed by the contribution of ordinary Ethiopians and basically, they collectively own the dam. Hope the people be consulted for their input before the agreement is signed.
God Bless Ethiopia