Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia signed on Tuesday the final contracts for the consultation offices appointed to conduct technical studies on the implications of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on countries downriver.
In a signing ceremony that took place in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, the three delegations signed the final contracts with two French consultation companies, Artelia and BRl, that will be responsible of the technical studies and UK-based company Corbett & Co. that will be responsible for the legal affairs.
According to the Sudan Tribune, the initial signing took place on Monday and was followed by a press statement. Head of the Sudanese technical team Saif Al-Din Hamad said that the signing of the contracts was delayed to enable the ministers of irrigation and water resources of the three countries to attend.
In March 2015, the three countries signed a declaration of principles whereby they agreed on the construction of the dam, but with technical studies to be conducted in order to guarantee that Egypt and Sudan’s water share will not be affected.
Ethiopia previously said that it respects the results of the studies that will be conducted by the consultation offices; however, it is not obliged to abide by these results. The Ethiopian minister of information and communications said earlier in May that 70% of the dam has already been constructed. Also, the technical studies that will be conducted do not pertain to the construction process, but rather to the operation process.
Ethiopia has not granted Egypt with sufficient proof that the dam will not affect its 55bn-cubic metre water quota. Though Egypt is expected to be left with rather vague consequences from the construction of GERD, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zeid denied that there were any disputes over the GERD and that bilateral relations between Egypt and Ethiopia are not strained.
In June 2013, former president Mohamed Morsi held a meeting with a number of political forces; this meeting was supposed to be secretive but it was broadcasted. During the meeting, the politicians with whom Morsi met with mentioned rumours that Egypt will launch military attacks on the dam. Tensions erupted over the comments between Egypt and Ethiopia.
Professor of Water Resources Nader Nour Al-Din previously told Daily News Egypt that the studies to be conducted by the offices will take about 11 months, by which time Ethiopia will have completed the construction process. He added that Ethiopia brought up the consultation offices issue to win time to finish the construction.
African expert on Sudan and Nile Basin countries in the Al-Ahram Centre previously told Daily News Egypt that the signing of contracts measure should have happened in August 2014, but the three countries kept postponing it.
Besides the GERD, Egypt faces a water shortage problem, according to Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel Aaty. He previously said that the water share for individuals has decreased due to the rising Egyptian population. However, he said that the deficit can be compensated with other water resources including groundwater and rainwater.