The Ethiopian government welcomed the filling of the Nile Renaissance Dam reservoir on Wednesday, but the project faces open hostilities from Egypt and Sudan, located downstream of the Nile, which are worried about the consequences of the flow. of the river.
If “Egypt is a gift from the Nile”, as the Greek historian Herodotus once said, it is undeniable that the Nile of Ethiopia is also a gift – home to one of the river’s main sources. And the former Abyssinian empire intends to take full advantage of this precious natural resource. On Tuesday, AddisAbbeba announced that the container for the mega-hydroelectric dam had reached its expected filling level in the first year, so when the dam is in full operation, the country is expected to become the continent’s largest energy exporter.
As a result of the seasonal rains, sufficient amounts of water have accumulatedto test the first two turbines, a crucial step for the Renaissance Grand Dam (Gerd), located in northwestern Ethiopia, on the Blue Nile (which joins the White Nile in Sudan to form the Nile) to begin producing energy. Hydropower reasoned as a promise of prosperous development in this Horn of Africa, deprived of coal and oil, and where half the population does not have access to electricity.
“A historic moment that testifies to the commitment of Ethiopians to the benefit of our country’s rebirth,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed proudly launched in a press release read on state television. “We completed the filling of the dam without causing any damage. Wrong with anyone,” concluded the winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
Difficult investigations to carry out
This is to forget a little about the sincere hostility in the neighborhood. Gerd has been called to become the largest hydropower plant in Africa and has also been a source of deep tensions with Egypt and Sudan since 2011 and both countries are afraid that the 145 meter high dam will limit their access to water. It must be said that the Blue Nile is a tributary of the Nile from which Egypt draws 90% of its fresh water. Opponents of the hydropower plant also doubt the long-term environmental and social impact.
Difficult to predict the consequences of the pond on nature. At this stage, the Ethiopian government has not submitted any document on the project’s environmental impact and social effects. In Negus’ country, it is complicated to investigate freely without facing opposition from the authorities. In June 2011, Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu was arrested after “asking too many questions” about the book.
>> See also about France 24: REPORTERS – “Ethiopia: barrier protection”
One thing is for sure, in Ethiopia, a country that is being undermined by ethnic divisions, “the Renaissance pond is indeed one of the rare subjects that unites opponents and supporters of the Prime Minister. All Ethiopians support the project with great fervor,” said Alain Gascon, honorary professor, specialist in Ethiopia at the University of Paris-VIII. “The project did not benefit from any external funding,” the researcher continues. “It’s a major national cause that was specifically funded through a subscription. Many members of the diaspora contributed to it. wants to be held in the head of state. “
The dam, a major national issue in Ethiopia
In Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi must also obtain concessions if he also wants to keep him in power. This is why the two countries, as well as Sudan, which ranks behind Cairo, are caught up in endless discussions that have begun since 2011. The US and the World Bank have highly sponsored discussions aimed at finding an agreement between the three countries since November 2019, Negotiations have not stopped stumbling.
By filling the reservoir on its pond, Ethiopia made a forced passage and added a little after objections. “It should be remembered that in the past, during the Treaty of the Division of the Nile, 1929, when 1959 signed between Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopia has always been excluded from the negotiations,” emphasizes Alain Gascon. Today, Ethiopians have not forgotten this story and are ready for anything. Absolutely anything. “
In addition to the opposition from Egypt and Sudan, “it must be acknowledged that for decades Ethiopia has carried out important and careful diplomatic work with the other countries in the region that do not see anything wrong with the project,” the professor continues. At the same time, the Ethiopian project complies with the UN Convention on the Division of the River. Ethiopia has very well protected the buttocks. As for the European Union, it does not want to get involved in the conflict. ”
The risk of incineration in the region
However, it is not excluded that things get sour. Egypt, which has great water needs to carry out its irrigation, must not stay there. “The subject is so important that it would not be surprising that General Sisi, dictator who reports to the offensive, supported by Donald Trump, does not bomb Ethiopia, set the region on fire and cause millions of deaths in his wake.”
The situation is not yet. “[Pour l’heure,] Ethiopia is only trying to become Africa’s workshop, if not the world. But [il n’y a] no industry possible without electricity. The Ethiopian authorities also intend to sell electricity to their neighbors including Djibouti, Kenya or Somalia[pour définitivement relever l’économie du pays]”, analyzes Alain Gascon. When completed, the Renaissance dam will be the second largest dam in Africa by volume (behind the Aswan dam in Egypt) and the largest hydropower plant on the continent.
A project that is not big yet for the region, if we look closely at the forecasts from the National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED). The center predicts that the population of all White Nile and Blue Nile states will double by 2050. Ethiopia’s population will increase from 110 million to 180 million, an increase of about 60%.