Egypt set to submit final Renaissance Dam report

A general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia. (AFP/File)
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Updated 13 July 2020

Egypt set to submit final Renaissance Dam report

  • Intense talks about Nile-based project

CAIRO: Egypt is expected to submit its final report on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations on Monday.

The report comes after 10 days of intense negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and will be submitted to South Africa as the current head of the African Union, which is mediating the talks.

All three countries are set to issue their final reports on the negotiation’s outcomes.

On Friday, Egypt rejected Ethiopia’s suggestion on postponing reaching a settlement on the points of contention in the GERD negotiations, according to a spokesman from Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Mohamed El-Sebaei. He said that the report would be handed to South Africa even though Egypt and Sudan had yet to review any of the dam’s safety studies.

The deadline to reach a deal in the current round of negotiations was scheduled for Sunday. The talks were resuming Monday with the three countries’ irrigation ministers.

Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation said that the ministers of the three countries started the Sunday meeting by reviewing the discussions of the technical and legal committees. Egypt put forward some alternative formulas to try to bring the opposing views closer.

The Sudanese and Ethiopian sides presented a few alternatives to the points of disagreement on technical and legal aspects, but the discussions reflected the ongoing disagreements on the main issues.

The Sudanese News Agency quoted the executive director of the African Union’s Energy Commission, Rashid Abdullah Ali, as saying that an agreement on the points of dispute between the three countries was close to being realized.

Some 85 percent of the Nile waters that reach Egypt flow from Ethiopian highlands, mainly from the Blue Nile.

Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the River Nile for its freshwater, fears the dam will diminish its water supply, which is already below scarcity level.

Ethiopia hopes the massive $4.8 billion megaproject on the Blue Nile, which would generate 6,000 megawatts when completed, will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter.

The latest round of the years-long talks stalled after Ethiopia rejected to enter into a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam.

Ali called on the three countries to prepare for the changes that the dam would lead to.

“We must manage a scientific-social dialogue to prepare ourselves to operate the Renaissance Dam and know how to plan for the future. There are huge projects that need government leadership,” he said.

Benefits for Sudan included the possibility of regulating the flow of the Nile and adding two million acres to irrigated agricultural lands, he said, and studies should be conducted for new projects to take advantage of this amount. He was expecting a decrease in the cost of pumping water with pumps over the entire course of the Blue Nile, and Nile and farmers benefiting from it.

He said the negative aspects for Sudan were that it would lose 50 percent of its cliffs, which are estimated at 50,000 acres out of a total of 100,000 acres, which are lands that were flooded with Nile water and planted with vegetables in the summer.

Mohammed Nasr Allam, Egypt’s former minister of water resources and irrigation, told Arab News that the framework followed by Ethiopia on the Renaissance Dam had been “stubborn” and had stalled all steps for a solution.

The US and the World Bank became involved in the dispute late last year but failed to get Ethiopia to sign up to a document agreed with Egypt in February.

“Ethiopia does not want to accept any agreements nor does it want any legal authority to monitor the implementation of the agreement if it ends up happening, and to hold those who violate it accountable,” Nader Noureldin, professor of water resources at Cairo University, said.

Noureldin predicted that, if the current negotiations failed, Egypt would turn to international courts “which the Ethiopian negotiator refuses to resort to if any party violates its promises in the treaties.”

Yemen’s attorney general orders probe into Aden ammonium nitrate reports

Updated 36 min 1 sec ago

Yemen’s attorney general orders probe into Aden ammonium nitrate reports

  • On Friday, Yemeni lawmakers joined voices that demanded an immediate investigation into allegations of stranded containers of ammonium nitrate

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s attorney general on Friday ordered prosecutors in the southern port city of Aden to launch a quick probe into reports about tons of ammonium nitrate abandoned in the city’s seaport for several years.

In a letter addressed to Aden province’s chief appeal prosecutor, Ali Ahmed Al-Awash ordered an investigation to determine the veracity of media reports that 130 containers of ammonium nitrate, the same explosive materials that devastated Beirut last week, had been abandoned in the seaport for some time.

Yemeni journalist Fatehi Ben Lazerq, the editor of the Aden Al-Ghad news site and newspaper, published a story on Friday saying that roughly 4,900 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in 130 containers had been gathering dust at the port for the last three years.

The story prompted Yemen Gulf of Aden Ports Corporation, a government body that runs Aden seaport, to strongly deny storing ammonium nitrate at the site, saying the reporter was referring to old seized shipments of 140 containers of the organic compound urea, which, like ammonium nitrate, is used as an agricultural fertilizer.

The corporation claimed the material was not “explosive or radioactive”. Urea nitrate, however, has been used in making bombs across the world, including those detonated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

Ben Lazerq later fleshed out the story by publishing a letter from Brig. Abdul Salam Al-Ameri, the chief of Aden Free Zone police, from April 12, 2012 and addressed to the Saudi-led coalition leadership, complaining that the confiscated containers were due to expire and might “cause great harm” to the seaport infrastructures and workers.

“The ball is in their court now,” Ben Lazerq told Arab News, referring to the government officials, saying that he published the story to alert the public about the hazardous materials.

On Friday, Yemeni lawmakers joined voices that demanded an immediate investigation into allegations of stranded containers of ammonium nitrate. Ali Hussein Ashal, a member of the Parliament of Yemen, sent a letter to the government requesting clarifications about the presence of 130 40-foot containers of fertilizer abandoned in Aden seaport, and the reasons for importing the materials.

Mohammed Alawi Amzrabeh, the chairman of Yemen Gulf of Aden Ports Corporation, told Arab News they kept the containers of “safe” agricultural fertilizers in the port after the Saudi-led coalition rejected the shipment’s entry into the country. Despite the corporation’s assurance that the materials in question do not pose a risk, several government officials told Arab News that the Saudi-led coalition and the internationally recognized government had classified urea fertilizer as an explosive material that could be used by the Iran-backed Houthis for military purposes, banning Yemeni seaports from importing it without prior permission.

In February, Arab News reported that the Yemeni coast guard seized a ship carrying 20 tons of urea fertilizer of the country’s west coast. State media outlets have also reported multiple confiscations of urea shipments on land in Yemen, destined for the Houthi-controlled territories in the north of the country.