Foreign Policy Watch: India-Africa

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Mains level: Horn of Africa Region

Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have agreed on to resume negotiations to resolve their decade-long complex dispute over the Grand Renaissance Dam hydropower project in the Horn of Africa.

Note: You never know when UPSC might switch map based questions away from the Middle East and SE Asia.

Considering this news, the UPSC may ask a prelim question based on the countries swept by River Nile/ various dams constructed/ landlocked countries in the African continent etc.

Also read

[Burning Issue] Ethiopian Crisis and the Geopolitics

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

  • Spearheaded by Ethiopia, the 145-meter-tall (475-foot-tall) Grand Renaissance Dam hydropower project, when completed, will be Africa’s largest.
  • Its construction was initiated in 2011 on the Blue Nile tributary of the river that runs across one part of Ethiopia.
  • The Nile is a necessary water source in the region and Egypt has consistently objected to the dam’s construction, saying it will impact water flow.
  • The long-standing dispute has been a cause of concern for international observers who fear that it may increase conflict between the two nations and spill out into other countries in the Horn of Africa.

What is the dispute about?

  • The Nile, Africa’s longest river, has been at the centre of a decade-long complex dispute involving several countries that are dependent on the river’s waters.
  • At the forefront of this dispute are Ethiopia and Egypt, with Sudan having found itself dragged into the issue.
  • The main waterways of the Nile run through Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt, and its drainage basin runs through several countries in East Africa, including Ethiopia.

Concerns over the dam

  • Given the dam’s location on the Blue Nile tributary, it would potentially allow Ethiopia to gain control of the flow of the river’s waters.
  • Egypt lies further downstream and is concerned that Ethiopia’s control over the water could result in lower water levels within its own borders.
  • In addition, Egypt proposed a longer timeline for the project over concerns that the water level of the Nile could dramatically drop as the reservoir fills with water in the initial stages.
  • Sudan’s location between Egypt up north and Ethiopia down south has caused it to become an inadvertent party to this dispute.
  • But that isn’t all; Sudan to is concerned that if Ethiopia were to gain control over the river, it would affect the water levels Sudan receives.

Why does Ethiopia want this dam?

  • Ethiopia’s goal is to secure electricity for its population and to sustain and develop its growing manufacturing industry.
  • Addis Ababa anticipates that this dam will generate approximately 6,000 megawatts of electricity when it is completed, that can be distributed for the needs of its population and industries.
  • In addition to its domestic requirements, Ethiopia may sell surplus electricity to neighbouring nations like Kenya, Sudan, Eritrea and South Sudan, that also suffer from electricity shortages, to generate some revenue.

What lies ahead?

  • Despite previous talks, the point of contention hasn’t changed: Egypt and Sudan are concerned about the filling and the operation of the dam.
  • Ethiopia continues to insist that the dam is required to meet the needs of its population and has said that downstream water supplies will not be adversely affected.
  • Cairo insists that the dam would cut its water supplies — concerning for a country that depends on the Nile for approximately 97% of its drinking water and irrigation supplies.
  • Sudan believes that the dam will reduce flooding, but is concerned about the path forward if the negotiations end at a stalemate.

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