Our nation is celebrating the fifth year progress of the GERD with various assortments. The foundation for the GERD was laid on March 24, 2003 EC by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Since then, construction activities are being carried out non-stop to help finalize the project as per schedule. Thousands of Ethiopians across the country including athletes, artists and journalists as well as Ethiopian diaspora had visited the site on occasion of the 5th year celebration. It is where you could see the vigour and the enthusiasm of the workers in that hottest gorge and the fast growing elegantly erected dam. On the visit, all Ethiopians and Ethiopian diaspora reconfirmed that the construction is awesome, inspiring and vowed to support the project until finalization.
A lot has been said about the GERD. Currently, over 10,000 workmen and engineers are dauntlessly toiling up the hills of Guba, in Benshangul-Gumuz State, where the GERD is located. Their unconquerable spirit defying the scorching environment of Guba is toughened by the national vision to finalize the project and benefit from huge electrification.
The GERD has been witnessing that the country has built the capacity to control the discharge of Nile through well-designed culvert boxes which was unimaginable some decades before. Up on finalization, the project will make Ethiopia well known for its power and taming of the wilderness of Nile (proves Ethiopia’s engineering prowess to fetter the unchecked run of Nile to the benefit of its citizens).
The project has also played its own role to boost the capacity of domestic contractors like the Metal Engineering Corporation. Professionals employed in this corporation and other sub-contracting corporations are making various subsidiary activities used to support the construction (electro-mechanical and hydro-mechanical activities) in a self-confident manner.
GERD Project General Manager Engineer Simegnew Bekele had said that Abay has been uselessly flowing out of Ethiopia since the Creation. Some ancient leaders of Ethiopia had exerted futile effort to harness the river. However, their effort has been materialized by the current generation after lapse of many hundred years. It really showed how mighty and lucky the current generation is.
He said that unwavering and irreversible decision of the government to construct the GERD has played a key role to the success gained in the construction. As a springboard to the present success, the government has formulated far-sighted policy and strategy to improve energy supply and materialize nation’s vision of poverty reduction.
The mega project being undertaken on Nile has swollen national pride and heralded the capacity of nation to undertake giant projects. It has motivated citizens to exert unparalleled endeavour and cast out the spectre of “impossible” entrenched for many years in connection with exploiting Nile (it is a secret in public that we do have lots of songs and hymns that praise Nile as insurmountable monster).
Bonding diplomatic ties and regional integration
Currently, more than half of the project has been undertaken successfully. This witnesses that the Project can neither be reversed nor the size of the Dam be reduced. This achievement enables Ethiopia to augment its diplomatic influence in the international arena. It also helps to defy and embarrass back-stabbers, cynical donors and giant financial organizations that had been stealthily horse-trading and undertaking subversive acts on the interest of Ethiopia for many decades.
In view of securing national interest, it is obvious that the GERD has initiated countries for more diplomatic relation and so many meetings had been held in Addis Ababa, Cairo and Khartoum and would continue to further bolster Nile cooperation. No project has ever initiated more diplomatic relation between riparian countries than the inception of the GERD. Hence, it can be said the Project is a diplomacy trail blazer.
Abroad, tireless diplomatic effort of Ethiopia has enabled to win the support of Sudan towards the Dam. It was uneasy task to publicly campaign about the benefit of the Dam to regional development, integration and make Sudan detach from its stand that was engrained since the colonial period. Thanks to this effort, Sudan has become one of the ardent supporters of the construction and reluctant Egypt is expected to U-turn and follows the footsteps of Sudan taking in to account the firm stand of Ethiopia to cooperation, regional integration and utilization of Nile water without significant impact.
Currently, the political commitment expressed by Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt has reached encouraging level more than ever. They have exhibited commitment to widen the horizon of their cooperation to security, combating terrorism and infrastructure development. Particularly, the current relations between Egypt and Ethiopia has grown to people to people and parliamentary level and it is expected to be reinvigorated.
Moreover, the construction of the GERD has initiated Egyptian investors to invest in Ethiopia and devise economic ties between the two countries. Undeniably, the start of the construction of the GERD has conspicuously initiated diplomatic flurry, investment and trade relations between the two countries (compared to frozen relation in the earlier era of Mubarak, before Ethiopia unveiling the project).
The GERD has not only started to rectify the earlier imbalanced attitude of geopolitics and hydro politics in the region it also has triggered countries to make continuous diplomatic relation. A case in point, many tri-lateral and bi-lateral meetings were held between Ethiopian, Egyptian and Sudanese leaders since the announcement of the construction of the GERD and International Panel of Experts (IPEs) submitting their recommendation on the project.
The Project has also enabled to give weight to the importance of NBI (Nile Basin Initiative). As a result, the budding NBI has got more acceptances (compared to the previous initiatives of the Technical Cooperation Committee for the Promotion of Development and Environmental Protection of the Basin (TECCO-NILE) and ENDUGU group that failed due to their inconclusiveness and inconsistency with the interest of all riparian countries) and most of the Nile Basin States are standing in favour of it as an instrument in equitable water usage.
Most importantly, Ethiopia’s firm belief is to focus on building the trust of Egypt and other Nile riparian countries on the GERD, enhancing modus operandi of mutual benefit and resolving the impasse on Nile. So far, Ethiopia has been able to firmly express its stand about the GERD on various diplomatic forums and its commitment to equitable use of water, mutual benefit and regional integration through NBI and other Nile-based cooperation (earlier the defunct regime of Mubarak had mistakenly diverted the attitude of people related to Nile water usage).
Particularly, activities used to boost the consensus of Egyptian people on the project and enable them understand the fact that the interest of Ethiopia is development and poverty alleviation based on equitable use of Nile water will be carried out. Currently, the relation of the two countries is going in an encouraging manner and Ethiopia is expressing commitment to strengthen this relation and establish cooperation of the two countries on rock-solid foundation.
The agenda of Nile concerns Ethiopia a great deal (viewed from its lion’s share contribution of water and poverty alleviation effort). In this regard, Ethiopia will strive to its level best to fully implement its foreign relation policy formulated on the basis of peaceful-coexistence, keen interest on Nile cooperation and regional integration.
The nation will continue exerting an all-out effort to reaffirm its stand that the construction of the GERD is only for the purpose of power generation. It has expressed its firm stand that the project is being undertaken based on regulation of international water utilization known as Helsinki Rules which says that trans-boundary rivers have to be shared equitably and reasonably among riparian states.