A guest post on the Global Water Forum (GWF) website by Michael Hammond, University of Exeter, UK, reflects on Ethiopia's plans to construct a hydroelectric dam close to the Sudanese border on the Blue Nile, highlighting concerns with unilateral decision making for water resource management in a transboundary basin.
18 February 2013: A guest post on the Global Water Forum (GWF) website by Michael Hammond, University of Exeter, UK, reflects on Ethiopia’s plans to construct a hydroelectric dam close to the Sudanese border on the Blue Nile. The article highlights concerns with unilateral decision making for water resource management in a transboundary basin.
In the article, Hammond outlines the details of the planned “Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam,” announced in 2011, including: its aim to generate over 5,000MW of electricity; the anticipated creation of a lake with a volume of over 60 billion cubic metres; its estimated costs of nearly $5 billion; and its location 45km east of the border with Sudan. Hammond observes that, in a country where, as of 2001, only 3% of its hydropower potential was developed and 83% of the population lack access to electricity, the project is part of a necessary plan to expand Ethiopia’s hydroelectric power capacity. However, he stresses the complexity of water management on the Nile, including the uncertainties presented by climate change, political, technical and financial problems, ranging from opposition from downstream states to the refusal of the World Bank and other international donors to support the project.
Focusing on the transboundary governance implications of the project, he highlights concerns over the project from Egypt and Sudan, citing their uncertainty over the effects the dam would have on downstream flows. Furthermore, he notes that disputes over Nile management predate plans for the dam, referring to historical treaties over its waters to provide context for the current tensions.
Hammond lauded the creation of the Nile Basin Initiative in 1999, but lamented that its Cooperative Framework Agreement of 2010 was signed only by upstream countries and faced strong opposition from Egypt and Sudan. Underscoring concerns with unilateral decision-making in a transboundary basin, he calls for greater cooperation among riparian states to ensure water security for all. [Publication: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the Blue Nile: Implications for transboundary water governance]