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Rejoinder: On the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia

By Lori Pottinger, International Rivers Network
Posted on Thursday, 17 April 2014 15:06

International Rivers, a nonprofit organization that advocates for healthy rivers and the communities that depend on them, has been caught in the crossfire between Ethiopia and Egypt as they struggle over a large dam being built on the Nile River by Ethiopia.

As reported in The Africa Report (Read the article HERE), our organization published a leaked report by the international panel of experts charged with reviewing project documents for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). We summarized the panel’s concerns, including the inadequacy of the hydrological-impacts study (key to understanding the dam’s downstream impacts).

In response, Ethiopia issued a histrionic statement claiming International Rivers is backed by “Egyptian financiers,” seeks to stop Ethiopia from developing, and other provocative and groundless charges. Unhelpfully, this statement did not address concerns raised by the Panel. We suggest a full reading of the Panel’s report to reach your own conclusions (Read the reportHERE)

We would also like to correct a few of Ethiopia’s allegations. International Rivers does not accept funding from any government institution, including Egypt. We don’t “take sides”; we critique destructive river projects wherever they occur (including in Egypt).

We recognize Ethiopia’s interest in updating the Nile Basin Treaty; support economic development that winnows Ethiopia’s poverty rates, and agree that the Ethiopian Government must chart its own course of development. Our experience as an organization with expertise in hydropower and rivers, and as part of a global movement of dam-affected peoples, leads us to conclude that maintaining healthy rivers is key to long-term prosperity. Megadams in Africa have been a costly and ineffective solution for increasing access for the millions of people on the continent without reliable access to electricity.

To the Government of Ethiopia, we respectfully submit that the biggest threat to GERD is not our publicizing the Panel’s report, but rather the escalation of tensions resulting from the dam’s rushed and secretive planning process. Such a monumental project should be accompanied by an equally monumental effort to gain acceptance from people who will be affected by it. We urge the Nile states find constructive ways to forge national and regional development strategies that ensure the long-term health of this critically important river, and build resilience to climatic uncertainty.

Lori Pottinger
Ethiopia Campaigns, International Rivers

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