The government in Ethiopia on Tuesday May 20th diverted the flow of the Nile River for the construction of controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), according to state media.
The diversion was made at the site of the dam in Benishangul Gumuz State in the presence of senior government officials including deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Demeke Mekonnin who said, “diversion of the river had been successfully done to utilise the resource for national interest,” according to ENA, state run media.
The construction of the Dam which was announced two years ago by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi remains controversial between Ethiopia and downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan.
Media reports quoted Egypt’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Mohamed Idriss, as saying that Egypt knew about the diversion but the unilateral announcement was premature. The Ambassador’s remarks came days before International Panel of Experts drawn from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia as well as Europe releases its long-awaited study on the impact of the dam.
The three countries agreed to form the panel of experts to assess the impact of the giant hydroelectric power dam on the downstream countries mainly Sudan and Egypt.
“The Nile for us is not just a river. It is the only source of life in Egypt. So any impact on the water reaching Egypt is going to affect Egyptian water security and the life of the Egyptian people and this is of great concern,” Ambassador Idriss was quoted as saying.
However, Ethiopian government officials have gone to great lengths to assure downstream countries that neither the construction of the dam, nor the diversion of the water flow will have any impact on the level of the water that flows down to other riparian countries.
The GERD, the biggest hydro-electric power dam in Africa, is a state run project with a cost of 5 Billion USD and is expected to have a capacity to generate 6000mwt electric power to the country with 74 Billion cubic meter of water storage capacity. Ethiopia aims to export power to its neighboring countries at the completion of the dam in 2017.