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Nile dam dispute can be resolved by exploring alternatives: EU official

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By Binsal Abdulkader

ABU DHABI, 25th November 2021 (WAM) -- A longstanding dispute on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia can be resolved by exploring alternative options for generation and management of fresh water and energy, which can be supported by the European Union, a top EU official told Emirates News Agency (WAM).

"My reading is, if we look at the Nile, it should not just be a focus on the Dam. Because when we look at the Nile, we see something and when we look at the dam, we see something else," said Annette Weber, the EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, who visited the UAE as part of an official tour to the Arabian Gulf region.

She explained that the Nile represented aspirations for change, growth and development for those countries. "We see growing needs for electricity in Ethiopia and Sudan. Once Ethiopia’s out of the war, they have a need for more electricity for development. I think the power question should be looked at differently. Not just by looking at the dam but [by exploring] solar, wind, thermal energy etc.," said the diplomat who assumed her current position in July 2021.

The EU can support such an effort to explore alternative options of clean energy, Weber stressed. "We [EU] have smart technology. This could cater for the future, rather than just looking into the present."

A similar approach must be adopted towards water generation and management as well, the EU representative suggested.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have invested in agricultural projects in Sudan, which need water, with a "smart understanding of water management, because even if the Great Renaissance Dam wouldn't be around, the question of freshwater for Sudan, and specifically for Egypt, will be there in the next 10-20 years."

Therefore, she suggested that "instead of just looking at the dam, I think we should open the perspective into the Nile."

However, she feels "it's quite difficult to find a solution to the dam dispute right now," because of the civil war in Ethiopia and political uncertainty in Sudan.

Although Egypt is willing to sign an agreement, "I don’t see any convergence closer than what it was before the war [in Ethiopia] started," the EU official said.

Asked whether it is too late to look at such alternative options to resolve the dam crisis, Weber said, "No. It is not. What would be the consequences then? We would just state the question that the Nile water will not be enough for the growing demography of Egypt in the next 50 years. So, we must move now, and I think it's not too late. We should engage right now in these questions on the needs of a growing demography."

She believes the dam is positive for Sudan because it regulates the water flow and has avoided the flooding and droughts that used to occur in the past.

"It can be used positively, but I think if we only look at the dam without looking into the bigger picture, then we might be too late," she added.

Asked whether she is confident of convincing the leaders of those countries about her alternative options, she said, "Let’s look at the alternatives. I wish I would be confident on this. I think this is basically everybody’s job, too. To come up with alternatives and to come up with ideas that can be helpful."

"Of course, you know it’s the three countries who will make a decision on this, so it’s not on us, but as an observer in that process, I think it’s also our obligation to come up with ideas and to basically bring this dialogue," Weber said.


WAM/ Ibrahim Shukralla

WAM/Binsal AbdulKader