Ethiopia has finished filling the reservoir of its huge Renaissance dam on the Blue Nile River for a second year which causes tensions to rise in Egypt and Sudan: the two main downstream neighbors. According to Al Jazeera, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project, which has cost four billion dollars to build, is Ethiopian’s hope for economic development and a sufficient power source. However, the project has long been rejected by Egypt and Sudan, who are concerned about water shortages and the dam’s safety. Egypt’s population is growing rapidly and its people – since ancient times – have been largely dependent on the fresh water from the Nile River. To be exact, the Egyptians rely on the Nile for 90 percent of its freshwater. To make matters worse, due to its geographical conditions, this largely desert country is likely to face drought and famine due to freshwater shortage. Al Jazeera also added that if the water flows are restricted, the Egyptians could lose more than one million jobs and about two billion dollars in their annual economic production. In short, Egypt views the Ethiopian dam project as posing an “existential threat” to its survival. Sudan has also expressed opposition to the GERD project. Sudan’s main concern is the safety of the dam, which lies just outside its border. Ethiopia, on the other hand, remains committed to the project, saying that it is crucial for the country’s development and accuses Egypt of imposing unrealistic rules on the dam’s operation.
Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s minister for water, irrigation, and energy, tweeted Monday: “The second filling of the Renaissance dam has been completed and the water is overflowing…we have now the needed volume of the water to run the two turbines.” Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi mentioned that Ethiopians view this dam project as their “national pride” and added “But of course the downstream countries, Sudan and Egypt are very concerned about what this could do to other water flows to their own countries along the Nile.” The Sudanese officials also say that 20 million farmers working alongside the Nile River will be affected by the project. The international audience, including the UN and the US, have made calls for negotiations between the countries. The US is particularly concerned the dam could raise tensions between the countries.
The dam project is a huge milestone for Ethiopia. The dam could bring economic growth to the country and it meets people’s needs for electricity. However, for centuries the Nile River has provided fresh water and energy for eleven countries. While I understand that Ethiopia must finish the project for its country’s development, I urge that it equitably share the river with other countries along the Nile. There are too many conflicts around the world involving countries fighting for resources. Thus, it would be useful for the three countries to peacefully talk before any conflict could arise. If one country were to escalate and act harshly on its own, the damage could be severe.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is the source of an almost decade-long diplomatic standoff between Ethiopia and downstream nations Egypt and Sudan. According to Al Jazeera, this project was announced by Ethiopia in 2011 when Egypt was in political disorder. GERD is in the process of becoming Africa’s largest power exporter and the world’s seventh-largest dam. The main dispute is centered on how quickly Ethiopia should refill and replenish its reservoir. Until today, Ethiopia’s dam project is not legitimately recognized by Egypt and Sudan.
The clear implications of this dispute are the potential for neighboring countries like Egypt to face water shortages and economic downfall. Tensions over water usage could bring instability to the region as a whole. When leaders are in a complete disagreement over how to share resources, regional peace could be shaken and there is the possibility of wars over water. Most importantly, the responsible leaders must take into account the farmers and people along the river who depend on the flowing water to survive. I stand with the UN in urging the countries involved to come to a peaceful resolution where they share the Nile River equitably and reasonably.
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