Water: Battle of the Nile

from the Financial Times..

June 19, 2013

By Katrina Manson and Borzou Daragahi

[Ed. note: Below is a brief introduction to this important full-page article]


Ethiopia’s $4.8bn plan to dam Africa’s longest river has infuriated states downstream

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The master of ceremonies was not holding back. “Now is the time for our renaissance!” he boomed. “[This is] part of the continual dream of reclaiming our greatness.”

Behind him, a coral-brown gash had been cut into the green hillside. Yellow Caterpillar earthmoving trucks rumbled across the construction site while the assembled dignitaries stood under a glaring sun, fanning themselves with brochures promoting the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project.

The Blue Nile streams through the moved earth, rushing towards Sudan 14km farther west, then onwards to Egypt and the Mediterranean. If the Ethiopians have their way, $4.8bn of concrete and engineering works will cover these foundations within the next four years, damming the Nile and generating 6,000 megawatts – much of it for export. Apart from producing electricity, the dam would realise a centuries-old dream of east Africans: mastering the mighty Nile.

But the river – and Ethiopia’s costly effort to dam it – is also at the heart of a regional dispute. The issue has inflamed national rivalries and deepened a diplomatic conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia that reflects a shift in power between a resurgent sub-Saharan Africa and weakened Arab states to the north. It is a struggle over water resources that has elicited threats of proxy wars and missile attacks and raised fears of economic meltdown.


“This is a voluntary act of citizens – people are contributing to the project out of their meagre revenues,” says Mr Bereket. “This has been a dream for every Ethiopian for thousands of years.” But contributions are slowing down.

The $4.8bn cost – combined with a lack of donor support for the project – may slow down the construction. So far it has garnered only 15 per cent of the financing and the International Monetary Fund says Ethiopia should slow spending because it is sucking money out of the rest of the economy.


But even without international financing, Ethiopia might still pull it off. “In the long run this is what will transform the Ethiopian economy,” says Donald Kaberuka, African Development Bank president. The Grand Renaissance dam project “is really a model. They’ve approached power from the viewpoint of energy security but also as an export sector”…

Link to this full-page article: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/bc79c9ac-d364-11e2-95d4-00144feab7de.html#axzz2X3gZWnoa


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