CAIRO, June 15, 2013 — Egypt is accusing Ethiopia of trying to cut-off its water supply, partially as an effort to divert attention from domestic difficulties.
Last week, Ethiopia, the source of one of the two tributaries of the Nile, started diverting the water flow of the river to build its $4.8 billion hydroelectric power project, known as the Grand Renaissance Dam.
Egypt’s main concern is that the dam will diminish its share of the water from the river. Egypt claims the water supply would decrease by at least 20 per cent and hydroelectric power would decrease by 40 per cent. The report, by a committee of water, agriculture and irrigation experts in Egypt said.
Moreover, Egyptian experts say the safety coefficient of the dam might be as low as 1.5. The Aswan Dam in Egypt has a safety coefficient of 8. They make these claims despite assertions by other experts that the dam is safe. These Egyptian experts warn that the dam, which will hold 74 billion cubic metres of water, would flood major cities if it collapsed.
The Egyptian government has expressed its strong opposition to the dam. President Morsi said, “if our share of Nile water decreases, our blood will be the alternative” at a conference to discuss the situation. The conference was organized by Islamist political parties to discuss the project and its effect on Egypt’s share of Nile water.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it has met twice with the Egyptian Ambassador in Addis Ababa after Egypt’s bellicose statements, and they also requested a clarification from the Egyptian government. Ethiopia has extended its appreciation to Sudan which has agreed on the construction of the Dam. Ethiopia announced that it had an unshakable belief in “friendship, cooperation and mutual benefit as the underlying principles of its relations with all friendly states including Egypt.”
However, Ethiopia said it will also not consider Egyptian requests to delay construction of the dam. Ethiopia repeatedly has stated not only that the dam was safe, but that it will not hurt Egypt’s water supply.
On Wednesday, June 12, President Morsi held a meeting at the presidential palace with Egypt’s National Security Council to discuss the impact of the construction of the dam on Egypt’s water.
Egyptian politicians remain divided over the dam. Some conservative Salafis politicians, like Shabaan Abdel Alim, believe the “intense tone is must; it’s a matter of life or death.” Other secular politicians, like Hany Raslan, Head of the Sudan and Nile Basin Unit at Al Ahram Centre for political studies, considers President’s Morsi’s speech an “unjustified escalation.”
Raslan added that the Morsi is making the dam issue a political issue, potentially to avert attention from opposition protests scheduled for June 30th, 2013 which coincides with the first presidential anniversary. A campaign known as Tamaroud, or Rebel, which demands that Morsi step down and hold early elections has gained considerable attention in Egypt.
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