Egyptian satellite monitoring construction of disputed Ethiopia dam, Africa’s largest

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Egypt, fearing its access to the Nile river will be hindered, plans to use a new satellite to track Ethiopia’s construction of Africa’s largest dam.

The Egysat, launched earlier this month, will monitor Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam by capturing high quality photos of the construction site along with other sources of the Nile, said Alaa El-din El-Nahry, vice president of Egypt’s National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences.

Water gushes out from pipes by the construction of Ethiopia's Great Renaissance Dam in Guba Woreda, some 40 km (25 miles) from Ethiopia's border with Sudan. /Reuters
Water gushes out from pipes by the construction of Ethiopia’s Great Renaissance Dam. /Reuters

Ethiopia is more than 30 percent finished with the hydroelectric dam, which will be the largest in Africa and capable of producing 6,000 megawatts of energy. Egypt believes the dam will hugely impact its share of the Nile, the country’s main source of potable water.

El-Nahry said the satellite will come into operation in mid-June after a two-month test period. It will track the dam’s height, storage capacity and water discharge. It will also monitor the Kongo River basin to assess the effectiveness of a proposed project to link the Kongo and Nile rivers, El-Nahry said.

Egyptian officials said the satellite will be a reliable source of information which will be used in case it must resort to international arbitration over any violations in the dam’s stated purpose of electricity generation, El-Nahry said, according to Al-Ahram’s daily Arabic newspaper.

Last year, Ethiopia and five other Nile-basin countries – Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi – endorsed the Co-operative Framework Agreement, which replaces a 1929 treaty granting Egypt veto power over any project on the Nile in upstream countries.

Sudan, Egypt’s immediate downstream country, has backed Ethiopia’s plans to build the dam.