The Saudi government this week criticized Ethiopian plans to construct the controversial $5 billion USD Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile, saying it threatens Egypt and Sudan’s share of the river’s water.
"Egypt is the most affected party from the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam because they have no alternative water source compared to other Nile Basin countries, and the establishment of the dam 12 kilometers from the Sudanese border is for political plotting rather than for economic gain, and constitutes a threat to Egyptian and Sudanese national security,” the Sudan Tribune quoted Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Khalid Bin Sultan as saying at Arab Water Council meeting in Cairo.
The Saudi minister also expressed concern over the possibility that, if the dam collapsed, it would flood Khartoum.
"The [Grand] Renaissance dam has its capacity of flood waters reaching more than 70 billion cubic meters of water, and is located at an altitude of 700 meters, and if it collapsed, then Khartoum will drown completely and the impact will even reach the Aswan Dam [in southern Egypt],” he said.
The Ethiopian dam is currently under construction along the Blue Nile near the country’s northwest border with Sudan. It is expected to be completed in 2015. It will generate 6,000 megawatts per day.
The project is so massive that Egypt and Sudan oppose its construction and have expressed concerns about its effects on Nile water flow.
Back in August, international whistleblower Wikileaks leaked data from the Global Intelligence Files of Texas-based private intelligence firm Stratfor, which included emails from Egyptian officials dating back to 2010 that discussed coordinating with Sudan to build a base from which to possibly bomb Ethiopian dams if they negatively affected the flow of Nile water.
Egyptian officials adamantly denied the reports, and earlier this month Egyptian Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Bahaaeddine reiterated that Egypt will not resort to military action to solve Nile water problems.
“[If] the negative impact of the [Ethiopian] Renaissance Dam is proved by the Tripartite Committee assigned to assess it, Egypt will resort to political means to solve the conflict. We will not resort to military intervention,” said Bahaaeddine.
The opposition from its neighbors has, however, made it difficult for Ethiopia to obtain traditional forms of funding. Financial institutions have also expressed concern about how the construction contract was awarded and the lack of a comprehensive environmental impact assessment. Italian company Salini Costruttori is building the dam.
The Ethiopian government is urgently pursuing innovative ways to raise funds to finance construction. Several months ago the Ethiopian government announced it would completely finance the project itself. However, the International Monetary Fund warned the country that focusing so much of its resources on one project could ultimately have extremely negative effects on its economy.
Earlier this month, the government announced that it would use music concerts, a lottery and an SMS messaging campaign to raise at least $100 million USD over the next few weeks to supplement other funds coming from the sale of government bonds and donations.