Ethiopian Irrigation and Water Minister Motuma Mikasa has stated that neither tripartite talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam nor the outcome of impact studies will not stop the building of the dam.
Speaking to Al-Masry Al-Youm, Mikasa revealed plans to finish construction by 2017. He added that plans are afoot to build more dams on all rivers flowing down from the Ethiopian highlands.
Whilst some countries in the Nile basin have expressed support for the Ethiopian construction project, begun in 2011, Egypt has spearheaded opposition to the dam, citing negative impact on downstream water flows as the main concern.
A tripartite committee from Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt was formed to discuss objections to the dam's construction, and it was agreed in 2014 that environmental impact studies would be conducted.
According to the news outlet Sudan Tribune, the French firms BRL and Artelia were contracted to conduct hydraulic, economic and environmental studies on the dam, since when negotiations have been made over the contracts to be signed by the countries and the firms. Once signed, the firms will have the green light to carry out an 11-month program of studies, Mikasa said.
No date has yet been set for the signing, but according to Mikasa, the three countries have agreed that it will take place at the end of July in Khartoum.
Despite Egyptian complaints that have rumbled on in the background of recent negotiations, Mikasa denied any current conflicts that call for mediation from Arab or foreign countries, and asserted Ethiopia's right to continue construction of the dam. He expressed commitment to the principles signed on by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and President Omar al-Bashir.
The minister said that no date has been allocated for the dam to begin its use, as this will depend on the project's progress.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm