* Claims Egypt is blocking dam funding
* Ethiopia says resolve at "point of no return"
* Analysts fear world's first war over water
By Barry Malone
ADDIS ABABA, March 30 Ethiopia on Wednesday said
it planned to build a huge dam on the Nile despite a
long-running row with Egypt over use of the river and concern
the dispute may spark a war.
The nine countries through which the river passes have for
more than a decade been locked in often bitter talks to
renegotiate colonial-era treaties that gave Egypt and Sudan the
lion's share of the river's waters.
However, six of the nine upstream countries -- Ethiopia,
Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi -- have signed a new
deal stripping Egypt of its veto and agreeing to renegotiate how
much water each country is entitled to.
"The Great Nile dam construction is scheduled to commence
presently near the Ethio-Sudan border," Water and Energy
Minister Alemayehu Tegenu told a news conference. "From this dam
alone, Ethiopia expects to generate 5,250MW."
The Horn of Africa nation aims to produce 15,000 megawatts
(MW) of power within 10 years, part of a plan to spend $12
billion over 25 years to improve the country's power-generating
Alemayehu said Ethiopia would be forced to finance the $4.78
billion dam from its own coffers and from the sale of government
bonds because Egypt was pressuring donor countries and
international lenders not to fund its dam projects.
POINT OF NO RETURN
"Those bent on deterring the development of the Nile have
not yet changed their obstructionist ways. Alas, Ethiopia's
resolve has now reached a point of no return," Alemayehu said.
He said tenders for consultancy contracts would soon be open
to international bidders and that Ethiopian engineers would
start work soon on the dam, expected to take 44 months to
In November, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told
Reuters that Egypt was backing rebel groups in his country
because of the Nile dispute and that if it went to war with
upstream countries over the river it would lose.
Egypt says it will ignore the new deal signed by upstream
states, even though it is now legally binding with six
Analysts say that the ousting of Egypt's President Hosni
Mubarak and the impending secession of South Sudan have
strengthened the case of the upstream nations.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has not signed the deal
and, when South Sudan becomes independent in July, there will be
ten Nile countries. Analysts expect South Sudan and DRC to
support the new agreement.
Tegenu said the Ethiopian government had commissioned an
independent survey that proved the new dam would benefit Egypt
and Sudan by decreasing siltation in their irrigation projects
and by reducing water wastage.
Under the original pact Egypt, which faces possible water
shortages by 2017, is entitled to 55.5 billion cubic metres a
year from the Nile's total flow of around 84 billion cubic
(Editing by Richard Lough)