Egypt has vowed to oppose plans by Ethiopia to build a hydroelectric power plant on the Nile river.
Egypt voiced its objections only days after Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had unveiled plans by the Horn of Africa nation to build a megahydropower plant in Benshangul Gumuz state, 40 km from the Ethiopia-Sudan border.
“We are planning to [undertake] a number of important projects on the Nile,” said Zenawi.
The plant, which would be the biggest investment in the county, would have the capacity to generate 6 000 MW of electricity.
Ethiopia believes implementing the project in the next five to ten years is critical in addressing its severe energy shortages and assisting the country in realising its desire to become a major electricity exporter in the region.
Ethiopia projects that power exports could rake in $407-million annually, much more than what it earns from exports of coffee, the country’s major foreign currency earner.
The planned move by Ethiopia to use the Nile’s waters has been given impetus by a decision by Burundi to sign the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework, which would pave the way for the equitable sharing of the Nile’s waters by the eight countries the river crosses.
The treaty – which has now been signed by Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi – will end Egypt’s historical control over the Nile.
With Burundi appending its signature to the framework, Egypt has ultimately lost it veto power to stop any projects along the Nile.
This means countries upstream can use the river’s water for hydropower generation and irrigation.
Both Egypt and Sudan have opposed the pact, mainly because they enjoy more than 90% of the Nile’s waters and contend that any activities upstream would drastically reduce the river’s flow.
Egypt, with a population of some 85-million people, derives about 90% of its water requirements from the Nile.
Njiraini Muchira, Engineering News