Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan sign the contract for GERD studies

The Tripartite National Committee of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan signed a contract with the French consulting company BRLi on Tuesday last week (September 20) in Khartoum.

BRLi will now conduct the two studies on the cross-border environmental, social and economic impact of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) recommended by the International Panel of Experts. They are technical studies relating to the process of operation not to the construction of the Dam, one on the effect of the dam on the water usage of Sudan and Egypt and the second to examine the dam's ecological, economic and social impacts on Sudan and Egypt. Gilles Rocquelain, BRLi's Director-General, said the studies would start late this year and take 11 months to complete. BRLi will present periodic reports to all the three countries.

The original environmental studies were undertaken by Ethiopia when it decided to commence the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, in the Benshangul Gumuz Regional State. Subsequently, as the Dam is being constructed on a trans-boundary water course, Ethiopia initiated the establishment of an International Panel of Experts to review the design and research documents of the GERD although there was no customary practice or formal treaty that obliged this.  The International Panel of Experts was composed of 10 experts, two each from Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, and four international experts from Britain, South Africa, Germany and France. The Panel reviewed the documents and conducted field visits to the GERD Project site in between June 2012 and May 2013. The International Panel recommended the carrying out of Water Resources/Hydropower System Simulation Modeling and Trans-boundary Environmental and Socio-Economic Impact Assessment studies in its Final Report, submitted to the Governments of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egyptian in June 2013. The two studies were recommended with the objective of enhancing trust and confidence and help mitigate negative concerns as well as optimize benefits.

To follow up these recommendations, and organize the studies, the three countries established a Tripartite National Committee. This has 12 members, four each from Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan. The Committee finally signed the contract with the lead consultant, BRLi, on September 20.

 The signing is a third milestone in the deliberations over GERD, following the report of the International Panel of Experts and the Declaration of Principles on the sharing of the Nile water and the protection of the interests of downstream countries when the dam's reservoir is filled, signed by the Presidents of Sudan and Egypt and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, in March 2015. The conduct of the two r studies will be based on the agreements reached during the successive Tripartite Committee deliberations, Ministerial Meetings and the general principles enshrined in the Declaration of Principles. The outcome of the studies can be expected to strengthen cooperation and expand the mutual benefit of the three countries.

At the meeting in Khartoum, the water ministers from the three countries said they were optimistic about the project. Egypt's Water Resources Minister, Mohamed Abdel Aati, said, "We are keen to have everyone satisfied with what we are doing... we are for regional integration and prosperity." Ethiopia's Minister for Water, Irrigation and Electricity, Mutuma Mikasa said the resources of the Nile should benefit all three countries, adding "we need to make sure that the outcome of these studies will strengthen our cooperation and ensure that the three countries benefit from the dam."  Mr. Mikasa told a news conference after the signing ceremony that the study could not affect construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Construction would continue to go ahead whatever the findings of the environmental impact report. He emphasized that one of the points the study would answer was about the filling of the dam. He said "this study is about restoring confidence between the three countries." He noted: "This power is not only for local consumption, but also for export. We are constructing interconnections to Kenya and from Kenya to Tanzania. We are working with Djibouti, Sudan, and others. This," he said, "creates regional peace and stability."

It is Ethiopia`s firm belief that it is only through cooperation that the Nile Basin countries can enhance the benefits of the Nile and achieve win-win development for all. For the Nile Basin countries, there is no other option than cooperation. Ethiopia`s decision to establish the International Panel of Experts and encourage the implementation of the recommended studies is a clear demonstration of its commitment to cooperation and regional integration.