Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan advance water, impact studies of 6,000-MW Grand Renaissance hydro project

Water ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have agreed to establish a committee to study water resources and socio-environmental effects related to the 6,000-MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam under construction in Ethiopia.

Ministers meeting Aug. 25-26 agreed to establish a committee to conduct two additional studies recommended by the project’s International Panel of Experts. A Tripartite National Committee comprising four experts from each country is to conduct the studies, one a water resources/hydropower system simulation model, and the other a transboundary environmental and socio-economic impact assessment.

The tripartite committee is to begin immediately and complete its work in six months. The studies are to be implemented by international consulting firms according to an agreed timetable. The ministers also agreed on the nomination of international experts to provide technical opinions in case there are disagreements among the ministers over the studies.

During the meeting, Ethiopia’s technical team also provided details of updates in dam design to satisfy the downstream states’ concerns about the dam’s stability. The countries’ technical teams agreed to continue consultations on technical matters in the future.

In addition to concerns for dam safety, the downstream states, particularly Egypt, have expressed concerned that they will suffer water shortages as the reservoir of the US$4.5 billion project is filled. The project is located along the Blue Nile, which accounts for 85 percent of the Nile River’s flow.

“We understand the concerns of the Sudanese and Egyptians,” Ethiopia Water Minister Alemayehu Tegenu said, adding there is no reason to stop construction of Grand Renaissance.

Ethiopian officials said in March they expect to be producing at least 750 MW of power from Grand Renaissance within 18 months. The project is reported to be 35 percent complete.

Grand Renaissance — formerly known as both “Project X” and the “Millennium Project” before Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers renamed it in 2011 — will be owned and operated by the Ethiopian Electric Power Corp.

Alstom last year signed a US$406.32 million contract with Metals & Engineering Corp. to supply eight 375-MW turbine-generators for the project. Salini Construttori Spa of Italy received a contract in 2011 to construct the project 40 kilometers from the Sudan border.

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