Power-starved Ethiopia rallies around Nile dam as Egypt dispute simmers

Power-starved Ethiopia rallies around Nile dam as Egypt dispute simmers
Power-starved Ethiopia rallies around Nile dam as Egypt dispute simmers

We show you our most important and recent visitors news details Power-starved Ethiopia rallies around Nile dam as Egypt dispute simmers in the following article

Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - METEKEL, ETHIOPIA - Cell phone batteries constantly dying, health centers bereft of modern equipment, a dependence on flashlights after sundown -- Kafule Yigzaw experienced all these struggles and more growing up without electricity in rural Ethiopia.

So five years ago, he leapt at the chance to work on a project designed to light up his country and the wider Horn of Africa region: the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a 145-metre-high, 1.8-kilometre-long concrete colossus that is set to become the largest hydropower plant in Africa.

"Our country has a huge problem with electricity," Kafule, 22, told AFP recently while taking a break from reinforcing steel pipes that will funnel water from the Blue Nile River to one of the dam's 13 turbines.

"This is about the existence of our nation and, in my opinion, it will help us break free from the bondage of poverty."

The dam is expected to begin producing energy by the end of this year.

Across Ethiopia, poor farmers and rich businessmen eagerly await the more than 6,000 megawatts of electricity officials say it will ultimately provide.

Yet as thousands of workers toil day and night to finish the project, Ethiopian negotiators remain locked in talks over how the dam will affect downstream neighbors, principally Egypt.

The next round of negotiations starts Thursday in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, and is likely to renew focus on Cairo's fears that the dam could bring water and food insecurity for millions of Egyptians.

Ethiopians at the dam site say they are doing their best to focus on the task at hand, though they bristle at suggestions that their country is overstepping in its bid to harness the Blue Nile for its development.

"When we do projects here it's not to harm the downstream countries," said deputy project manager Ephrem Woldekidan. "There is no reason that the downstream countries should complain (about) it because this is our resource also."

The Nile River's two main tributaries -- the Blue and White Niles -- converge in the Sudanese capital Khartoum before flowing north through Egypt toward the Mediterranean Sea.

Egypt depends on the Nile for about 90 percent of its irrigation and drinking water, and says it has "historic rights" to the river guaranteed by treaties from 1929 and 1959.

Tensions have been high in the Nile basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on the dam in 2011.

The International Crisis Group warned last March that the countries "could be drawn into conflict" given that Egypt sees potential water loss as "an existential threat". -AFP

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