GERDP at Four: Heading
for a New Chapter in Nile Cooperation
April 5, 2015
Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia
are celebrating the fourth anniversary of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
project - GERDP. The GERDP, under construction on the Blue Nile, located a few
kilometers from the Ethio-Sudan border, is now more than 42% complete and
expected to start generating about 600MW power by 2015 and reach 6000MW ultimately.
The vital role of the GERDP has in
expanding electricity; public revenue; accelerating industrialization and
advancing the overall economic transformation have made it a high priority venture
among the government and the people. Indeed, the peoples of Ethiopia from all
walks of life and age groups mobilized to support the dam by all means and realize
its timely completion.
The benefits of the dam are not
limited to Ethiopia. As explained on several occasions, the dam would reduce
the level of siltation at Aswan Dam and protect it from the danger of flooding.
Egypt has been releasing water from the dam to the desert to reduce its level.
Had they not released the water, it would have risked the dam and also flooded
Cairo. The GERD would prevent such threats from occurring as it controls the
flow of the water. Thus, once the Renaissance Dam is filled with water, the
water flow would be regular hence it prevents such types of disaster. This by
itself would bring about various benefits to Egypt.
As the former PM Meles Zenawi
highlighted in April 2011, during the launch of the GERDP, it will also have
huge benefits for the downstream countries. The Prime Minister said:
"The Dam will greatly reduce the
problems of silt and sediment that consistently affect dams in Egypt and Sudan.
This has been a particularly acute problem at Sudan’s Fosseiries dam which has
been experienced reduction in output.
When the Dam becomes operational,
communities all along the riverbanks and surrounding areas, particularly in
Sudan, will be permanently relieved from centuries of flooding. These countries
will have the opportunity to obtain increased power supplies at competitive
The Dam will increase the amount of
water resources available, reducing the wastage from evaporation, which has
been a serious problem in these countries. It will in fact ensure a steady
year-round flow of the Nile. ….
Based on that calculation, as the
Prime Minister noted at the time, Sudan and Egypt should have considered covering
some of the costs of the entire GERDP.
Nevertheless, there were
misunderstandings and outdated views among some politicians in the region. Some
Egyptian media, scholars and some officials have fannned various issues at
different time and tried to create tension and dispute between the two
governments and peoples concerning GERDP.
However, there had been a conviction
from the side of Ethiopia that is ‘it is not always necessary to respond to
each and every destructive message on their media’. At the same time, making
all the necessary efforts to reveal the truth to all concerned.
Now, things have started changing for
On the eve of the celebration of the GERDP's
4th anniversary, Ethiopia's effort for regional cooperation, to circumvent change
suspicion and misunderstanding, to advance mutual cooperation, trust and
confidence is has made significant headways.
Two weeks ago, the leaders of
Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt signed a landmark Declaration of Principles on the Grand
Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with the aim of promotion of trans-boundary
cooperation and regional integration. The signing ceremony of the agreement was
held in Khartoum and by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, President Abdel
Fattah El Sisi and President Omer Hassan Elbashir.
As stated in the text of the
agreement itself, the three leaders put their signature in the spirit that:
"Mindful of the rising demand of
the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the
Republic of Sudan on their transboundary water resource, and cognizant of the
significance of the River Nile as the source of livelihood and the significant
resource to the development of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia and
This is the same spirit that was demonstrated
by Ethiopia since the launch of the GERDP. Indeed, Ethiopia continued making a
goodwill gesture every time since then.
A month after the launch of the
GERDP, when the Egyptian people were misinformed and confused by irresponsible
politicians and journalists, Ethiopia went half way to accommodate the Public
Diplomacy Delegation to boost mutual trust and assure the sisterly people of
The “Egyptian People’s Diplomatic
Delegation”, which came to Ethiopia in April 2011, consisted 48 people and comprised
three presidential candidates, independent political activists, representatives
of different political parties and movements, members of parliament,
politicians, jurists, public figures, members of the academia, media
representatives and members of the Youth Movement of the Egyptians Revolution
former parliament members, community leaders, journalists and other public
figures from Egypt.
When the Public Diplomacy Delegation
met with the late Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi, it received a warm reception
and pledge demonstrating Ethiopia's commitment to long-term mutual trust and
It was reported by the Arabic
publication of Ahram on May/2011 as following:
The Prime Minister stressed that he
had seen several models of dams and that he was keen to choose the model that
generates electricity only and does not remember running water in irrigation of
agricultural land. “I say to the Egyptians that this dam is beneficial to Egypt
and the Sudan and will not hurts in any way.
Yet, in order to reassure the
Egyptian people and thereby eliminate all the doubts created by former regime
of Egypt, I accept the formation of a committee of experts, consisting
Ethiopians, Egyptians, Sudanese and other foreign experts, to examine the dam
project and to make sure it will not cause any damage to Egypt and Sudan.
Although I am sure of that, I sure
you I am ready to modify the project if the Committee concludes to the
contrary.“ He added, “this decisions is taken now come out of respect for the
Egyptian people and the revolution and the delegation of public diplomacy and
to reassure the Egyptian people for whom we have all the respect and
When the 1st anniversary
of the GERDP was celebrated, Ethiopians from all walks of life were contributing
their salaries, buying bonds and expressing their support for the project. The
workers in the GERDP site backed by a committed leadership had been building
the dam 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
At the same time, an International
Panel of Experts was established with ten experts (two Ethiopian, two Sudanese,
two Egyptian and four international experts figures), as per the Prime Minister's
pledge and had started work.
When the 2nd anniversary
came around, the Panel had finished its work and prepared a final report, while
the GERDP had reached a river-diversion stage. As reported by the state-owned
newspaper Ethiopian Herald in the first week of April/2013:
“What makes the completion of its
construction insight is the fact that the two major activities that are crucial
in accomplishing the project are well in progress.
First, the river diversion works.
[The work includes] a 120 m wide, 1,100 m long diversion channel excavated on
the right bank of the river, discharging wet season flows (14, 700 m3/s) and 4
box culverts located at the dam foundation level on the left bank of the river,
capable to discharging the dry season flows (2,700m3/s).
Then again, the major section of the
dam would be the reservoir, which would be realized by the construction of a
concrete gravity dam, a gated spillway and a rock-fill Saddle Dam with an
emergency spillway in correspondence of its right abutment.
On the second anniversary, it was
also announced that the construction of the concrete gravity dam, will soon be
commenced following the completion of the water diversion work.”
In line, with these public statements
and the project timetable, the water diversion work conducted in May 2013. It
was on May 28, 2013 that the Ethiopian government officially announced that it
conducted diversion of the river to make way for the dam construction, which is
a common task in the process of any dam construction work.
The diversion work resulted in some
foolish talks in the Egypt media, especially, when the then President of Egypt
called opposition parties for a dialogue on the report. In that supposedly
“secret” meeting, where some of the participants are said “unaware” that it was
being live transmitted on TV, they were seen suggesting measures such as
sabotaging the dam, destabilizing Ethiopia, aiding insurgents, launching direct
military attack, etc.
It was an international scandal that
made the people think the President is mismanaging the country, the Nile issues
and acting softly. In an apparent attempt to show strength and assertiveness, the
President and his top officials stepped up their rhetoric officially asking
Ethiopia to halt the dam in the following days, culminating with President
Morsi saying the alternative is our blood.
Indeed, the diversion of the river
was a wakeup call for some Egyptian pundits who used to believe that Ethiopia would
not make much progress in the project. It was also a clear signal that Ethiopia
will press ahead with the project no-matter what Egypt says, without closing
the room for joint efforts if necessary.
Nonetheless, Ethiopia did not join
such madness and the attempts to politicize the water diversion process and the
mixing of the Nile issue with domestic politics in Cairo.
Instead, Ethiopia urged for restraint
and for the implementation of the report of the IPOE [International Panel of
Experts]. As the official website of the Foreign Ministry of Ethiopia reported
at the time, dring a meeting between Dr. Tedros Adhanom and an European
“Dr. Tedros expressed his concern
over the path that Egypt appeared to be taking. He stressed that Ethiopia was
building the Dam to address its burgeoning energy demands. It had repeatedly
made clear that there would be no appreciable harm on Egypt.
In order to address the concerns of
lower riparian countries, Ethiopia had taken the initiative to establish an
International Panel of Experts, Dr. Tedros said, and the panel in its report
had made quite clear that the Dam would not harm the lower riparian countries.
Dr. Tedros suggested that Egypt’s
current efforts to politicize the re-routing process were being made because it
knew the report of the International Panel of Experts would be positive.
Ethiopia wants to get on the right
track, starting with the report of the International Panel which had explicitly
stated that the Dam would offer significant benefits to Egypt. Dr. Tedros also
emphasized that Ethiopia would never halt or delay construction of the Dam.”
When the final report of the Experts
was released later that month, it confirmed Ethiopia's prudence in designing
the GERDP. The final report, which was signed by all members of the IPOE
The Government of Ethiopia provided
the necessary GERDP related hard and soft copy documents for review by the IPoE
starting at the launch meeting up to the 6th meeting of the lPoE. A
dedicated web page was established to facilitate documents sharing among lPoE
The IPOE also commended Ethiopia's full
cooperation. The IPOE said in its final report that Ethiopia provided more than
the necessary documents and data:
153 documents have been submitted to
the lPoE by Ethiopia during May 2012 to May 2013, of which 103 are drawings, 7
are maps, and 43 are reports. The IPoE reviewed only 12 Reports, of which: 2
are environment and socio-economics documents, 3 are water & hydrology
documents, 7 are dam engineering documents.
Ethiopia immediately accepted the
report with issued a statement saying:
“the report indicates that the design
of the GERD is based on international standards and principles....The report
showed that the Dam offers high benefit for all the three countries and would
not cause significant harm on both the lower riparian countries.
“the panel of experts has suggested
additional assessment on the possible impact of the GERD as well as proposed
ideas that would help the basin countries’ benefit better from the Dam.
“The government would carefully
assess the report by the panel of experts and facilitate cooperation forums to
work together with lower riparian countries for common benefit”.
A month later, when the Foreign
Minister of Egypt came to Ethiopia, the same spirit of cooperation was
reiterated. As it had been pointed out in the joint statement:
“With regard to the Grand Ethiopian
Renaissance Dam, both ministers agreed, as per the Terms of Reference of the
International Panel of Experts, to immediately initiate consultations among
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, on how to move forward with the implementation of
its recommendations, including the recommended studies to be conducted.
In this regard, the Minister of
Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia welcomed the Egyptian initiative to begin
consultations amongst the Water Resources and Foreign Ministers of the three
countries, at the technical and political levels, to ensure the implementation
of the above-mentioned recommendations.
The Egyptian Foreign Minister
expressed Egypt’s concerns regarding the possible effects of the Grand
Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Egypt’s water use.
The Ethiopian Foreign Minister, on
his part, assured his Egyptian counterpart that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance
Dam, which will be used for power generation purposes, is being built in a way
that addresses Egypt’s water security concerns.
In such context, both Ministers
agreed to take into account the developmental interests of Ethiopia as well as
the water security concerns of downstream countries.
Both Ministers, in a spirit of
brotherly relations and mutual understanding, agreed to embark on consultations
at the technical and political levels, with the participation of the Republic
of the Sudan, to implement in a speedy manner the International Panel of
In this context, the Minister of
Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia reiterated Ethiopia’s previous position, which is
committed to a win-win approach as the basis for future cooperation.”
It didn't take the Sdanese to endorse
the GERDP. At a workshop organized by the International University of Africa
and Ethiopian Embassy in Khartoum to discuss the effects of the Grand
Renaissance Dam last year, Saiffudine Hamad Abdallah, Minister of Irrigation
and Water Resources of Sudan, said that:
“Sudan can make maximum use of this
Dam, which will reduce clay [sediment in Sudanese dams], whose removal costs
millions of dollars.... the Dam will provide water at fixed levels that will
help irrigated agriculture, especially in the wake of shortages of rain across
the regions of the country”.
Finally, Egypt started talking about
setting up a mechanism for following up on the implementation of the
recommendations of the Experts' Panel
After several meetings among Ethiopia's
Ministry of Water and Energy, Egyptian Minister of Irrigation and Water
Resources and Sudan’s Minister of Water Resources and Electricity as well as
discussion sessions involving the Foreign Ministers - the three countries
managed to craft a framework for the implementation of the recommendations made
by the International Panel of Experts.
Now, the Egyptians have reached the
point where are starting to a sing to a similar tune with the collaborative
spirit of Ethiopia. Indeed, they acknowledged in the In the Declaration of
Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam signed two weeks ago that:
The Three Countries appreciate the
efforts undertaken thus far by Ethiopia in implementing the IPoE
recommendations pertinent to the GERD safety.
Ethiopia shall in good faith continue
the full implementation of the Dam safety recommendations as per the IPoE
The agreement did also acknowledge
the significance of the River Nile as the source of livelihood and the
significant resource to the development of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia and
Sudan. Moreover, the government of Egypt unequivocally accepted several terms
and principles of cooperation that it has been shying away from for decades.
The three countries also agreed on
the principle of sovereign equality and territorial integrity for the optimal
utilization and adequate protection of the Nile River.
I – Principles of Cooperation
• To cooperate based on common understanding,
mutual benefit, good faith, win-win and principles of international law.
• To cooperate in understanding
upstream and downstream water needs in its various aspects.
IX – Principle of Sovereignty and
The Three Countries shall cooperate
on the basis of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, mutual benefit and
good faith in order to attain optimal utilization and adequate protection of
The acceptance of the principle is a
manifestation of the rights and responsibilities of the riparian states in
their utilization of the Nile waters. One of the benefits of the GERD for the
region is, of course, that it will encourage, expedite environmental
conservation, and play a crucial role in the improvement of both the quality
and quantity of the Nile waters.
Another central point in the
Declaration is the Principle of Peaceful Settlement of Disputes. It reads:
X – Principle of Peaceful Settlement
• The Three Countries will settle
disputes, arising out of the interpretation or implementation of this
agreement, amicably through consultation or negotiation in accordance with the
principle of good faith. If the Parties are unable to resolve the dispute
thorough consultation or negotiation, they may jointly request for
conciliation, mediation or refer the matter for the consideration of the Heads
of State/Heads of Government.
By acceding to this principle, the
three countries have opted for an internal mechanism for peaceful settlement of
disputes. This crucial point demonstrates the level of trust and confidence
that the three countries are reaching.
In effect, the signing of the
Declaration of Principles has brought the three countries closer together. It
provides the basis for cooperation in the Nile Basin and is in line with the
objectives for development of the region.
Indeed, the agreement included the
Principle of Equitable and Reasonable Utilization stating that:
IV – Principle of Equitable and
• The Three Countries shall utilize
their shared water resources in their respective territories in an equitable
and reasonable manner.
• In ensuring their equitable and
reasonable utilization, the Three Countries will take into account all the
relevant guiding factors......
Indeed, the challenges of cooperation
are not over.
The three countries have yet to sort
out the specifics, especially on the completion and implementation of the
additional impact studies to be conducted. However, the latest agreement had
been a landmark in the protracted diplomatic struggle concerning the Grand
Ethiopian Renaissance dam.
As the President Abdel Fatteh El SiSi
said, addressing a joint session of the FDRE Parliament last month, “from
the onset of our civilizations, we have drunk and shared the waters of the
Nile. The river has been passing through the veins of
generations of Egyptians and Ethiopians as blood. This shared resource should
be a reason for greater cooperation and regional integration rather than
conflict and animosity."
That has been the position of
Ethiopia all along. Now, the spirit being reciprocated by the President of
Egypt made the 4th anniversary of GERDP a historical moment with twofold