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Ethiopia’s Dam Project Reflects Shifting Balance of Power in Nile Basin

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River is creating serious tension among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. There is a fear in Egypt that the large storage capability of the dam will put control of valuable Nile water in the hands of upstream Ethiopia. Egyptian leaders have regularly issued threats to deter Ethiopia from completing the project, without much success. Meanwhile, Sudan, which has had a water-sharing agreement with Egypt on the Nile since 1959, has sided with Ethiopia, heightening uncertainty in Cairo over the future of Nile water sharing.

The Renaissance Dam project has been on the drawing board since the 1960s, but only in March 2011 did Ethiopia officially declare its intention to carry out the construction. The $4.8 billion hydropower project, located in northwestern Ethiopia near the Sudanese border, is designed to have an installed capacity of 5,250 megawatts. The Nile River basin is shared among 10 riparian countries, but the issue of the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile in particular directly involves Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. ...

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