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Morsi meeting discusses effects of dam

The meeting discussed the findings of the report issued by an international panel of experts which political leaders described as ‘worrisome’


President Mohamed Morsi during the meeting with different political and social groups discussing the effect of the Renaissance Dam  (Photo Presidency handout )
President Mohamed Morsi during the meeting with different political and social groups discussing the effect of the Renaissance Dam
(Photo Presidency handout )

A report by an international panel of experts (IPoE) has recommended establishing a water reserve for downstream countries, like Egypt and Sudan, to use in cases of droughts or emergencies.

The IPoE’s recommendation is part of a report about the affects of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam delivered to President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday by the Egyptian delegation from the IPoE. The panel also recommended Ethiopia present more comprehensive and in-depth studies.

President Morsi held a meeting on Monday with political leaders to discuss the report on the potential effects relating to the construction of the Ethiopian dam.

“Egypt is the Gift of the Nile, and the Nile and Egypt are the gifts of God; nobody can take away God’s gifts,” Morsi said in his opening speech at the meeting.

The president said he tasked the Egyptian members of the international panel of experts (IPoE) that issued the report to write a summary of the findings which were presented to Morsi by the delegation on Sunday.

“I wanted to discuss the summary with you before I met with the cabinet later today to relay your recommendations to them,” Morsi added.

Khaled Al-Kazaz, the president’s secretary for foreign affairs, presented the findings of the report to the meeting attendees.

“Ethiopia should sign a written commitment, recognised by the international community, not to affect Egyptian or Sudanese shares of Nile water,” the report read.

The findings also suggested establishing a tripartite technical committee to supervise the construction and operation of the dam.

The IPoE stated that in one section of the report intended for environmental and social effects needed additional information to produce more accurate findings, saying Ethiopia did not present any in-depth studies.

“We don’t have any information on whether agriculture would be affected or people would be forced to migrate, as well as many other issues,” Al-Kazaz said.

The panel stated that there was no information available for an economic analysis regarding the size of the dam, its height and ability to generate electricity. “Maybe Ethiopia didn’t want to disclose information that could indicate profits or losses for the country and partner countries,” Al-Kazaz speculated.

One section of the report warned that in times of drought, the Renaissance Dam’s water reserves will lead to an unprecedented low water level in Egypt’s Aswan High Dam.

“The final comments [of the report] noted the benefits of the dam to the downstream countries; reducing silt deposits, reducing floods and increasing agricultural areas,” Al-Kazaz said.

He added that experts warned against depending on the Ethiopian studies provided to the IPoE; the studies, he said, were very poor and used only simple simulation models. They also had concerns about the design concept of the dam.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Water and Energy had issued a press release on Saturday stating that the panel’s report indicated the design of Renaissance Dam was based on international standards and that the dam will benefit the three countries and would not cause significant harm to neither Egypt nor Sudan.

Chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party Saad Al-Katatni described the report as highly concerning and recommended the use of diplomacy and international law to solve the crisis.

Younes Makhyoun, chairman of the Al-Nour Party called on political powers to unite. “Ethiopia is taking advantage of the political rifts in our country,” he asserted.

He also criticised statements made by Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Bahaa Al-Din, saying “his statements are weak and only serve the interests of Ethiopia”.

Chairman of Al-Wasat Party Abul Ela Mady suggested military pressure if political pressure failed.

Representatives of Al-Azhar and Egyptian churches also attended the meeting. Sheikh Hassan Al-Shafei, chief adviser to Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam, said that we should use African, international and religious institutions to embarrass Ethiopia. “But we should avoid violence, they are our neighbours,” Al-Shafei said.

Bishop Danial of the Coptic Church said that the Ethiopian Patriarch is visiting Pope Tawadros II in ten days and “they will discuss the dam among other topics”.

“We neglected Africa for a very long time, now we reap what we sow,” said Safwat Al-Bayady, head of the Evangelical Church.

“We visited Ethiopia and promised mutual projects and did nothing” said Chairman of Misr Party Amr Khaled, he suggested forming an international Egyptian lobby and a crisis management group.

Former MP and Political Science Professor Amr Hamzawy criticised statements made by state institutions that harm our interests. “Following a policy of racism and looking down on African countries has worsened the Egyptian stance throughout the past years.”

Co-founder of Reform and Development Party (RDP) Ramy Lakah suggested a water awareness revolution; he said water shortage is inevitable due to population growth, misuse of resources and pollution.

Other figures like Mohamed Al-Sadat and Magdy Hussein suggested using artists and sports figures as mediators.

Al-Kazaz added that the current regime has been working on strengthening relations with African countries. “President Morsi and Prime Minister Hesham Qandil have attended African conferences and encouraged investments in Africa,” he said.

He stated that Ethiopia had started the preliminary stage of constructing the dam two years ago.

The committee that issued the report includes experts from England, France, Germany and South Africa as well as six representatives from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan equally.

The committee started working in May 2012 and held six meetings, the last of which was in May 2013. They presented the report to the governments of the three countries.

Ghad Al-Thawra Party leader Ayman Nour expressed his surprise that the meeting was aired live on television despite the sensitivity of the topic.

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