moderate rain
humidity: 100%
wind: 2km/h NNW
H 24 • L 24

Renaissance Dam Imminent Disaster to Sudan: Hydrologist By Amani

By: Mohammed Osman

Gandoul KHARTOUM, July 10 (SUDANOW)— A Former Director of the Nile Water Administration who took part in numerous international and regional conferences on water, believes that the building of a series of dams on the Blue Nile within Ethiopia is an ideal alternative to construction of the Renaissance Dam.

Hydrologist Haider Yusuf Bakheit, is a renowned water resources expert who served for more than 35 years with the Sudanese Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources. He believes that the building of a series of dams on the Blue Nile within Ethiopia is an ideal alternative to construction of the Renaissance Dam.

Bakheit is of the viewpoint that inter-nation relations should be based on common interests, rather than good-faith. He wonders why some international institutions turn a blind eye to the planned construction of a dam that poses a high risk to downstream countries of a common river. The hydrologist, in an interview with, spoke at length on the Nile water and the extent to which the Sudan benefits from it, the concluded deals, the good-faith policy and the resulting political and economic impact, the risk of the Renaissance Dam on the three eastern Nile Basin countries of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt and on the dubious silence by the concerned Sudanese institutions and the international organizations concerned with the water and environment issues.

Bakheit argues that the Construction of the Renaissance Dam will definitely lead to a disaster in the Sudan and to a shortage of water and power generation in Egypt in addition to a slight damage in case of its collapse.

He played down the importance of the Dam in relation to the power generation, indicating that the capacity of the Dam, according to an Ethiopian study he cited, is about 33%, and it was previously estimated that the Dam would generate around 5,250 megawatts a year. The hydrologist expressed regret for applying the “good-faith” policy in connection with the issue of water, pointing out that there are agreement and international laws and conventions that control this issue.

Promises and assurances by the Ethiopian officials could be counted upon, Bakheit said, citing an agreement signed the Ethiopian Emperor, Melek the second in 1902 providing that Ethiopia would not block the flow of water of the Blue Nile, Lake Tana and Sobat River by constructing dam on condition that Ethiopia is given a border strip of the Sudanese territories. However, Ethiopia breached this agreement by conducting studies and building dams in the mentioned area and retained its right in the second article of the agreement.

The water resources expert indicated that the Nile Basin Initiative, which was signed by Ethiopia, provides that other countries must not be harmed by water resources projects to be executed by any member state of the Nile Basin. Our question to the expert was that why he opposes to construction of the Renaissance Dam and he argued” Because it will take away the soil fertility and lessen the ground water by blocking the silt before the Dam and denying the Sudan the annual inundation, resulting in the loss of more than 20 million feddans (acres) usually irrigated by the flood of the Blue Nile.

A graver risk is that the Dam will be built only five kilometers away from the Sudanese border in the seismic area of the African Rift Valley and, moreover, the Dam can be a military target, Bakheit said. In this connection, he cited threats by Israeli Sharon and Lieberman of undermining the High Dam and the consequent Egyptian move to protect the High Dam, allocating 100 million Egyptian pounds for the purpose.

He wondered who would protect the Renaissance Dam from a threat of striking the Sudan and whether the cost of the protection was included in budget of construction. In the event of the collapse of the Dam, the Sudan would be obliterated from existence, God forbids, Bakheit warned.

As for Ethiopia itself, the Dam will drown an area of around 0.5 million cultivable feddans (acres) of permanent irrigation stretching from the present site of the Dam to the third dam (Mandaya Dam) on the Blue Nile. This is the gold-rich Bene Shangoul region and thus the gold, Ethiopia’s oil, will vanish, said the Sudanese hydrologist.

QUESTION: Are there covert powers advocating the construction of the Dam? ANSWER: This is likely.2


ANSWER: Because Sudan has refused to sign the Entebbe agreement. QUESTION: What are the motives behind suspicions about the Renaissance Dam which, according the Ethiopian officials, is aimed at the development of the region?

ANSWER: The Renaissance Dam has never been on the declared plans and programmes of development of Ethiopia since the publishing of the study on development of the Ethiopian water resources that was conducted by the US land reclamation office in 1964. That study provided for the construction of 33 dams which did not include this Renaissance Dam. Even the 35 projects which were presented by Ethiopia to the Nile Basin Initiative in 1999 did not include the Renaissance Dam.

It suddenly appeared in 2011 under Project X, then renamed the Millennium Dam and later on in April of the same year the name was changed to the Renaissance Dam during the ceremony of laying the foundation stone. The site of the Dam was located 12.5 km away from the Sudanese borderline with a storage capacity of 74 billion cubic meters. Isn’t the secrecy that shrouded such a tremendous dam, the timing of its announcement and official notification of the Sudan on 4 October 2011, that is, six months after the beginning of the execution something that raises doubts about the dam, although they allege that it would be beneficial to the Sudan? Wouldn’t be appropriate of them to notify the Sudan ahead of the execution so that we can consult with each other on how best we can benefit from it, while we have already heightened the Er Rosaires Dam? Has the operation of the Renaissance Dam been discussed alongside the Er Rosaires and Sennar dams for irrigation and Merowe Dam for power generation? Shouldn’t all be a motive for an earlier disclosure of the plans for building such a tremendous project in order to expand the benefits, if there is any? For this reason, suspicion was raised about the Dam.

QUESTION: What’s the Sudan’s reaction?


ANSWER: The Sudan was not informed in advance; otherwise it would not have carried out the heightening of Er Rosaires Dam, relocated the inhabitants of the affected villages, built 22 villages and paid high compensations. Has Ethiopia taken all this in consideration when it declared construction of the Dam in February 201?

QUESTION: The statement by the Sudanese government consenting to the construction of the Dam, was it made before or after issuance of the report of the tripartite technical committee?

ANSWER: As far as I know, the committee did not reach a conclusive opinion on the benefits and risks of the Dam on the Sudan and Egypt as the studies were not completed and the committee requested more time for finalizing its studies and mission.

QUESTION: What was the Ethiopian response?

ANSWER: The response was obvious since the formation of the committee in November 2011 and before the start of its meetings in May 2012. It was clear that Ethiopia would carry on with its plans for building the Dam, regardless of the technical committee’s decision, whether in favor or against the Dam. It was Ethiopia that suggested the formation of the committee to which the Sudan and Egypt agreed and participated, alongside Ethiopia, in the expenses of the foreign members of the committee.

QUESTION: What was the role of the committee in bridging the viewpoints?

ANSWER: The goals of the committee included trust-building and bringing closer the viewpoints of the three countries (Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt) for reaching solutions acceptable to all parties; but the lack of the needed information and studies made the committee stop at this stage.

QUESTION: How do you explain the insistence on the 1959 Nile Water Agreement?

ANSWER: And why is the insistence on abrogating it? The 1959 Nile Water Agreement obligates only the signatories. This is a recognized legal principle. The agreement did not obligate any one of the other Nil Basin states with any arrangements. It was signed by two independent states, two national government for regulating an internal matter. And despite our viewpoint on it, the agreement reserved for the Sudan a right that is difficult to abrogate, and for this reason, the Sudan has to adhere to the agreement, despite its flaws.

QUESTION: How do you view the Nile Basin Initiative?

ANSWER: The Nile Basin Initiative was the “carrot” which the Sudan did not swallow; it was the “stick” that brought the Renaissance Dam. It’s unwise of the Sudan to sign its legal framework (Entebbe Agreement) and I wish the Sudan will not sign it because it is more evil than good.

QUESTION: How many states have signed the Initiative so far?


ANSWER: Until now, it was signed by six states and it will be effective when it is signed by seven out of the 10 states of the Nile Basin. This quorum could not be reached until now, although it has been open to signing since May 2010. The Congo was expected to complete the necessary number but it declined to sign and thus the countries of the source missed the chance of making use of a promise by the World Bank to finance the projects of the Initiative for which a sum of 120 billion dollars has been allocated in case the Commission was established. Why? Then South Sudan, which has recently joined the Initiative, announced its intention of signing the Entebbe Agreement during the Nile Basin ministerial meeting that was recently held in Juba, but abruptly reversed its decision and declared it would sign later on in the future on a date it has not set yet. What is behind this tactic?

QUESTION: Why didn’t Sudan and Egypt sign the Entebbe Agreement?

ANSWER: The Sudan and Egypt are for cooperation with the Nile Basin states and for signing the agreement but after agreeing on the following issues of controversy: 1-The 1929 and 1959 agreements 2-The advance notification 3-The decision-making (in consensus or majority)

QUESTION: What is your personal opinion on it?

ANSWER: If signing of Entebbe Agreement and the formation of the Commission converge with the framework agreement for using the river courses for purposes other than navigation, the Sudan and Egypt will be gravely harmed, considering the definition of the terms of the framework agreement, unless the Entebbe Agreement is modified.

QUESTION: How do you explain the insistence by Ethiopia on building the Dam?

ANSWER: God knows best.

QUESTION: What solutions are proposed in case the Renaissance Dam is constructed?11

ANSWER: Reference can be made to a study conducted in 1964 by the US Land Reclamation Office containing a finalized series of dams on the Blue Nile that can serve as a substitute to the Renaissance Dam and can generate more hydroelectric power than what is envisaged by the Renaissance Dam. This study can be a basis for consultation and negotiation with the Ethiopians on the Renaissance Dam and for dispelling fears by the Sudan about the collapse of the Dam in spite of the Ethiopian assurances about the safety and soundness of the Dam.


Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


Recent tweets

FOLLOW Us On Facebook

Contact Us

Address: Sudan News Agency (SUNA) Building, Jamhoria Street, Khartoum - Sudan

Mobile:+249 909220011 / +249 912307547