The design of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be reviewed by an Independent Technical Committee of Experts selected from Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan and other countries after the next six months. At a Trilateral Ministerial Meeting held at the Hilton Hotel on November 29, the three countries agreed to form an Independent Technical committee of experts.
Ethiopian Minister of Water and Energy, Alemayehu Tegenu, said the experts’ committee nomination will be held in two months, and the approval will take four months. After the approval of the committee, it will start its review of the design of the dam. Even though the review work is going to be held, Ethiopia is confident the project will continue unabated.
However, the Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Hesham Kandil (Dr) said; “it is a beginning.”
“We know that the GRD has great use for everyone but the review is going to be done so that the two countries most affected can be sure. There will be a series of research conducted so we can be confident the project will not fail,” Alemayehu said.
Capital asked the minister what would happen should the independent committee reachthe conclusion that the dam creates adverse impacts to downstream countries. Alemayehu responded by saying there is no way such a conclusion would be reached.
Ethiopia has no plans to change the design as it has high confidence that the review will not change anything. At the challenging, ten hour long meeting, the Egyptians requested the Ethiopian government halt construction and wanted to use it as a criteria for signing the agreement. However, the Ethiopian Water and Energy minister told the delegates that the construction will not be stopped for a minute as PM Meles Zenawi said before. Alemayehu told Capital that stopping construction would not create understanding.
Tefera Beyene, who directs boundary and trans boundary rivers affairs, told Capital that before this meeting, Ethiopia sent the term of reference to both countries and the Sudanese government agreed. Egypt, however, raised objections. No major changes were made to the document despite the belief by Egypt that they might suffer some adverse effects from the dam.
The review is about finding out the impacts of the dam on downstream countries. The committee will have four international experts and one or two experts from every country. The delegation has also made the rule of procedures for the committee a day after it signed the term of reference. On the discussion which was closed journalists, lawyers, water engineers, and diplomats from the three countries participated.
The Ethiopian GRD design plans to produce 5,250MW of electric power. Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo), a state owned monopoly, currently produces about 1,300MW. The country has plans to increase this amount to 10,000MW by 2017. The Grand Renaissance Dam is part of the Growth and Transformation Plan which calls for the electricity to reach 75 percent of the population. Currently 59 percent of Ethiopians have no access to electricity. The construction process is expected to create 12,000 jobs at its peak.