Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is expected to meet Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, starting on 29 January, to discuss Ethiopia’s controversial Grand Renaissance Dam.

Egyptians are concerned the 63-billion-cubic-metre dam will reduce the Nile river’s water flow through Sudan and Egypt. This would affect the capacity of Egypt’s dams, especially the Aswan High dam and threaten the country’s water security.

Egypt generated 13,121 gigawatt hours (GWh) of hydropower in 2012-13, making up about 8 per cent of its electricity production. The Nile also supplies 70 per cent of Egypt’s water. It uses 55.5 billion cubic metres a year of Nile water, primarily for irrigation and drinking water.

Usage of Nile water is governed by a 1929 colonial agreement between Britain and Egypt, giving Egypt complete control, while Sudan negotiated rights to 18.5 million cubic metres a year in 1959. Other Nile basin countries contest this situation.

Experts have also highlighted the size of Ethiopia’s proposed dam and the lack of water flow data or thorough impact studies as causes for concern.

A tripartite committee comprising Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt was formed in 2012 to study technical issues and implement international experts’ recommendations. Sudan is in favour of the dam.

Seven international firms bid in December 2014 to carry out the study.

Italian Salini Impregilio started work on the $4.7bn dam in December 2010, and is due to complete construction in 2017.

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