*UPDATES WITH ETHIOPIAN MINISTER’S COMMENTS
By Mohamed Amin
KHARTOUM (AA) – Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have signed a deal with two French consultancy firms to study the anticipated impact of a massive hydroelectric dam — currently being built on Ethiopia’s Blue Nile River — on downstream states.
The water and irrigation ministries from the three countries on Tuesday signed contracts with French engineering consultancies Artelia and BRL with a view to assessing the environmental and social impact of Ethiopia’s much-anticipated Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
In recent years, Egyptian officials have voiced fear that the dam’s construction would serve to diminish Egypt’s historical share of Nile water.
According to the contracts signed Tuesday, the assessment will be complete within 11 months.
At a signing ceremony in Khartoum, Ethiopian Water Resources Minister Mutuma Mikasa stressed that Ethiopia had no intention of harming Egypt’s interests.
Egyptian Water Resources Minister Mohamed Abdel Ati described the signing as a “historical moment” in the three countries’ relations, asserting that Egypt would provide any help needed in finalizing the assessments.
Sudanese Water and Electricity Minister Mutaz Musa, for his part, voiced optimism that the assessments would serve to enhance mutual understanding between the three countries involved.
One study will assess the dam’s anticipated impact on Sudan’s and Egypt’s historical water quotas, while a second will assess the dam’s environmental, ecological, economic and social impact on downstream states.
Last year, Ethiopian, Sudanese and Egyptian officials signed a “declaration of principles” regarding the dam, while also calling for technical studies to be carried out on the project.
The $4.2-billion dam — expected to generate up to 6,000 megawatts of power — is currently under construction on Ethiopia’s Blue Nile near the Sudanese border.
Upon his arrival back home from Khartoum, Mikasa told reporters that the 4.5-million euro impact studies would be “instrumental in building trust and confidence between the three countries”.
When asked by Anadolu Agency if the assessments’ findings would be considered binding, the minister said: “We know the dam will not entail any significant harm on downstream countries; rather, it will be beneficial.”
He went on to point out that the dam would allow Ethiopia to distribute electricity to its neighbors in the region.
*Addis Getachew contributed to this story from Addis Ababa