In 2011 Ethiopia announced plans for a huge new hydroelectric dam — the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) — to be built across the Blue Nile River close to the country’s border with Sudan (Figure 1). The estimated cost of the scheme, which will be Africa’s largest when completed, is $4 billion, though critics believe this is an underestimate. Since the plans were announced Egypt and Ethiopia have repeatedly clashed over the dam and it future operations. Ethiopia says GERD will help pull its people out of poverty and boost development, but Egypt believes the scheme will endanger its own share of the Nile river waters that are so crucial to its economy.
Egypt believes the dam will reduce the flow of the Nile downstream from the confluence of the Blue Nile with the White Nile at Khartoum in Sudan (Figure 1). Egypt has a fast-growing population of over 100 million and relies on the Nile for more than 90% of its freshwater. The country is also highly dependent on the river for its agriculture and much of its industry. Egypt’s existence has been based on the waters of the Nile for thousands of years.
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