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Explained: On Nile, a Grand Dam divides African nations

  • Posted By
    10Pointer
  • Categories
    World Affairs
  • Published
    6th January, 2021

Context

  • Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt agreed to resume negotiations to resolve their decade-long complex dispute over theGrand Renaissance Dam hydropower project in the Horn of Africa.

What is the dispute about?

  • The Nile, Africa’s longest river, has been at the center of a decade-long complex dispute involving several countries that are dependent on the river’s waters.
  • At the forefront of this dispute are Ethiopia and Egypt, with Sudan having found itself dragged into the issue.
  • Spearheaded by Ethiopia, the 145-meter-tall (475-foot-tall) Grand Renaissance Dam hydropower project, when completed, will be Africa’s largest.
  • The construction of the dam was initiated in 2011 on the Blue Nile tributary of the river that runs across one part of Ethiopia.
  • The Nile is a necessary water source in the region and Egypt has consistently objected to the dam’s construction, saying it will impact water flow.
  • The long-standing dispute has been a cause of concern for international observers who fear that it may increase conflict between the two nations and spill out into other countries in the Horn of Africa.

 Why can the dam cause conflict?

  • Given the dam’s location on the Blue Nile tributary, it would potentially allow Ethiopia to gain control of the flow of the river’s waters.
  • Egypt lies further downstream and is concerned that Ethiopia’s control over the water could result in lower water levels within its own borders.
  • When Ethiopia had announced in 2019 that it planned on generating power using two turbines, Egypt had strongly objected.
  • In addition, Egypt proposed a longer timeline for the project over concerns that the water level of the Nile could dramatically drop as the reservoir fills with water in the initial stages.
  • Sudan’s location between Egypt up north and Ethiopia down south has caused it to become an inadvertent party to this dispute.
  • But that isn’t all; Sudan too is concerned that if Ethiopia were to gain control over the river, it would affect the water levels Sudan receives.

What is its significance for Ethiopia?

  • Ethiopia’s goal is to secure electricity for its population and to sustain and develop its growing manufacturing industry.