20 September 2019

Ethiopia on Wednesday rejected a proposal by Egypt
to operate a $4-billion hydropower dam the Horn of Africa country is
constructing on the Nile, further deepening a dispute between the two nations
over the project.

In a press conference in Ethiopia’s capital Addis
Ababa, Sileshi Bekele,
minister for water, irrigation and energy described Egypt’s plan, including the
volume of water it wants the dam to release annually, as

“The proposal from Egypt was unilaterally
decided…(it) didn’t consider our previous agreements,” he said.

“We can’t agree with this…we will prepare
our counter proposal.”

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD),
announced in 2011, is designed to be the centrepiece of Ethiopia’s bid to
become Africa’s biggest power exporter, generating more than

6 000 megawatts.

The two nations disagree over the annual flow of
water that should be guaranteed to Egypt and how to manage flows during

Egypt relies on the Nile for 90% of its fresh water
and it wants the GERD’s reservoir to release a higher volume of water than
Ethiopia is willing to guarantee, among other disagreements.

“An Egyptian expert can’t control our
dam,” Sileshi said and described the Egyptian plan as a potential
violation of Ethiopia’s sovereignty.

Sileshi did not say how much water Ethiopia wants
to release, but Egypt wants the dam to release a minimum of 40 billion cubic
metres of water from the GERD annually.

Following construction delays, Ethiopia has said GERD will start power production by the end of 2020 and be fully operational by 2022.

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