JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN — A rift continued Thursday between Egypt and Ethiopia over a plan by Addis Ababa to build a huge dam on one of the tributaries of the River Nile, while an announcement by South Sudan that it has chosen more than a dozen potential dam sites along the river evoked little concern from Nile Basin Initiative countries meeting in Juba.
Egypt, which under a colonial-era law controls the biggest share of the Nile's waters, has been at loggerheads for months with Ethiopia over a plan by Addis Ababa to build a 6,000-megawatt dam with a 63 billion cubic meter reservoir on a tributary of the Nile. Cairo is worried that the dam would reduce the amount of water available in Egypt.
But Ethiopian’s Minister of Water, Alemayehu Tegenu, said his government is not ready to back off of its plans.
“The Nile is a common resource. The Nile is a gift to the population of the all Nile Basin Countries. We will not allow a single country to have full control of our shared resources. Conflicts and tensions over the utilization of the Nile are not helpful and will not lead to sustainable utilisation,” Tegenu said, adding that the new dam will help to solve power supply problems in Ethiopia.
Construction on the dam started two years ago on Ethiopia’s Blue Nile River, whose basin accounts for about 75 percent of the water flowing into the lower Nile River.
Egypt’s Deputy Minister for Water Resources Ahmad Bah Eldein insisted his government does not want to deny any country the opportunity to make improvements, but said that Cairo would not overlook the security of its own people.
“Egypt has never been and will never be against the development of our brothers in the Nile Basin countries as long as this process doesn’t impact Egypt’s water security or hinder the spirit of cooperation amongst us,” he said.
Representatives of the two countries did not reach an agreement on the issue at the meeting, but said they will continue to discuss it.
Meanwhile, an announcement by South Sudan that it has chosen 16 sites along the Nile to develop hydroelectric dams brought little concern from other NBI countries.
“We will optimise infrastructure for growth. In this regard, the potential for hydro-power generation from about 16 sites with installation capacity ranging from 3.5 to 700 megawatts has been marked," said South Sudan Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Paul Mayom Akec.
Six of the 10 NBI countries have already ratified an agreement that would replace the colonial-era laws that gave control of most of the Nile waters to Egypt and Sudan.
Akec announced earlier this week that South Sudan will sign the agreement, too, but Sudan and Egypt have both refused to put their names to it.
The Nile Basin Initiative member states are Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
Earlier, we have listed South Africa as a member of the Nile Basin Initiative. VOA regrets the error.