Egypt’s ‘Dam Good’ Response to Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

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Africa-Press-Ethiopia Ethiopia has started generating electricity from its new dam across the Nile River. Egypt is furious. Or is it?

The day after the dam was activated, Egypt repeated its demand for a binding agreement to safeguard its supply of water from the Nile, with a definite or-else tone in the background.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa and the seventh-largest in the world. It’s larger than Egypt’s own Aswan High Dam about 2,000 kilometers downstream.

Someone new to the subject might think that those are the only dams ever built across the Nile, one of the world’s greatest, noblest, and history-laden waterways. In fact, the first dam was built near the site of present-day Cairo around 2,650 BCE, or more than 4,000 years ago.

In recent times, there’s the Aswan High Dam, completed in 1970. A recent count shows that 25 hydroelectric dams have been built on the Nile in the past 50 years, and eight more are in the planning or construction stages.

The Aswan High Dam created an enormous artificial lake that has lessened the annual threats of flooding and drought downstream in Egypt, along with providing electricity and irrigation.

Now Ethiopia has done the same and Egypt is not taking this lying down. Or at least that’s what its leaders say.

A year ago, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi warned: “I am telling our brothers in Ethiopia, let’s not reach the point where you touch a drop of Egypt’s water because all options are open.”

It certainly looked like a crisis when I wrote this in Cairo in 2012. It’s in my first book, Broken Spring.

“Any perceived threat to the waters of the Nile sets off near-panic in Egypt. Estimates of the proportion of Nile water originating in Ethiopia range up to 70%. Images of the Nile’s level dropping by 70%, to the point where you could walk across it without getting your ankles wet, dance across the minds of Egyptians in a daytime nightmare.

“It’s nonsense, of course.

“If all Ethiopia wants to do is generate electricity, then the water that spins the turbines goes back into the river and flows into Egypt. If Ethiopia wants to use some of the water to develop its agriculture by irrigation, it’s pretty clearly entitled to do that.”

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