ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have picked two firms to carry out studies on the potential impact of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam on the flow of the Nile, an Egyptian official said.
The leaders of the three countries signed a co-operation deal in Khartoum in March that paved the way for a joint approach to regional water supplies.
Cairo and Addis Ababa had previously been locked in a bitter war of words over Ethiopia's $4 billion project.
Egypt, which relies almost exclusively on the Nile for farming, industry and domestic water use, has sought assurances the dam will not significantly cut its flow to its rapidly growing population.
Ethiopia, the source of the Blue Nile which joins the White Nile in Khartoum and runs on to Egypt, says the dam will not disrupt flow. It hopes the project will transform it into a power hub for the electricity-hungry region.
“We have reached a good conclusion in selecting two international firms,” Egyptian Irrigation Minister Hossam al-Moghazi told Reuters late on Thursday.
Another Egyptian diplomat attending the talks said French firm Artelia was one of the consultants and a Dutch firm the other.
Al-Moghazi declined to name the firms, saying the three countries had agreed to announce them once they get a response from both companies by May 4, but told Reuters they were French and Dutch.
One of the firms will be the main consultant and the other a sub-consultant to carry out water and environmental studies, he said.
They will compile the study over an 11-month period before publishing their recommendations, he said.
The 6,000-MW Grand Renaissance Dam being built by Italy's biggest construction firm Salini Impregilo is the centrepiece of Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter.
Officials say 50 percent of its construction has so far been completed.
Addis Ababa plans to spend some $12 billion on harnessing its rivers for hydropower production in the next two decades.