Legal issues need to be finalized before GERD study occurs

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)

Even thought the three downstream Abay (Nile) river countries were expected to finalize a deal with two consultancy firms early in August the deal has not yet concluded.

Officials at Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity told Capital that the countries and the two French companies will sign the document that allows the firms to undertake a study on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The French companies that a tripartite national committee (TNC) of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt selected are BRL Ingenierie and Artelia, the second one replaced the Dutch firm Deltares when that company resigned about 11 months ago.

The deal was expected to be sealed about a month ago as per the confirmation from the negotiators from Sudan and Ethiopia, who met media members of the three countries.

Some legal issues that have to be included on the binding agreement are the reason for the delay. However most of the issues has been finalized.

Based on the initial agreement of the TNC, Artelia will be a sub consultant under the main consultant BRL Ingenierie

Artelia, who was among seven shortlisted companies to undertake the study, was selected during the previous meeting held in Khartoum from December 27 to 29, 2015.

The two companies have submitted their technical proposals to undertake the study. The study focuses on a hydrology simulation model and assesses the socioeconomic impacts of the project.

Ethiopia has expressed that the GERD project will never significantly harm the downstream countries, while Sudan has also given its support for the project since 2013.

The Egyptian sides now have a good understanding about the project and the diplomatic side has also created a strong trust between the three downstream countries.

A year ago leaders of the three countries signed a declaration of principle about the river, which is the first and ever deal signed between the three countries on the river.

Historically Ethiopia was excluded from sharing the water during colonial times.

The latest deal is considered a big success for the three countries to build trust about using the the river.

Late this week media in Egypt reported that leaders of the three countries will meet in Khartoum for two days.

Bezuneh Tolch, public relation head of the Ministry, told Capital that the deal will be concluded in the near future but it will not be on the coming days.

The iconic project will have a capacity of generating over 6,000 MW of electricity. At this time, half of it has been completed.

Recently Seifeldin Abdalla (Prof), Sudan TNC chair, told Capital that the beginning of the study was delayed due to some legal issues.

The study will be carried out by two French companies and may take up to 11 months. BRL will be the lead consultant.

BRL is not new to Ethiopian projects. Previously the company has undertaken the study of other dam projects in Ethiopia. Sogreah Consulting Engineers, one of the two companies that formed Artelia, has undertaken several studies in Ethiopia related with water projects including the Gibe III and Awash basin. Artelia was established in 2010 after the merger between Sogreah and Coteba.

In March 2015, the three downstream countries signed the declaration of principles agreement that emphasized the principles of cooperation, development, and regional integration. Now the three countries are climbing to expand their cooperation on the river.

The multibillion dollar GERD project being constructed on Tikur Abay (Blue Nile) will be the biggest ever hydroelectric project on the continent. The locally funded, 6,000 megawatt dam, being built by Italy’s largest construction firm, Salini Impregilo SpA, is almost half done.