Citing Lack of Independence, Experts Pull Out of Ethiopia’s GERD

Erskine Mdone
GERD's construction site
GERD's construction site
courtesy of

One of the consultancy firms conducting studies on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River has pulled out of the project, citing concerns about a lack of independence.

In 2013, Ethopia and the two countries that would be affected by the project – Egypt and Sudan – formed a trilateral committee composed of the countries’ water ministers. After much wrangling over the dam's possible negative impacts, the trilateral commission decided to appoint international experts to study impacts of the GERD in September 2014.


In April 2015, the commission selected two consultancy firms to study hydrological models as well as potential trans-boundary socio-economic and environmental impacts of the GERD on the three countries: BRLi (France) and Deltares (Netherlands).

The French firm was responsible for 70% of the studies, while Deltares would oversee the other 30%. The trilateral commission initially proposed a deadline of between 5 and 12 months from the date of appointment (April 2015). Both firms, however, failed to meet deadlines, forcing the trilateral commission to reschedule consultations where they would have deliberated the findings of the studies. No reason was given for the delay.

Quite unexpectedly, on the 9th of September 2015, Deltares pulled out of the studies, citing “conditions as imposed by the TNC [trilateral committee] and BRLi on how the studies should be carried out did not provide sufficient guarantee for Deltares that an independent high-quality study could be carried out.”

The Nile River
The Nile River
Courtesy of History for Kids.

Egypt remains concerned  over Deltares’ resignation from the studies, as this could give Ethiopia more scope to continue with the construction of the GERD without accounting for dam’s negative impacts.

Currently, Egypt suffers from an annual deficit of 20 billion cubic meters of water. Previous studies have shown that the GERD's diversion of the nile will further reduce the Rivers' flow – which Egypt depends on for 97% of its water – by an additional 5.0 to 7.0 billion cubic meters a year.

Ethiopia on the other hand, continues to aggressively pursue its controversial domestic fundraising initiatives in order to unilaterally finance the construction of the GERD.

In a forthcoming report by International Rivers, we find these initiatives have, in some instances, infringed on basic human rights, and that there is evidence of apparent coercion. Ethiopia furthermore continues to disregard the socio-economic and environmental impacts of its dams – it's proposing the construction of three more dams on the Nile: Border, Mabil and Kara Dod dams, all of which would only compound the GERD's negative impacts on the river.

Sunday, October 4, 2015