Grand Dam

Ethiopia Promises to Finalize Filling Grand Renaissance Dam within 4-7 Years

Authorities in Ethiopia announced that the filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam on Nile will be finalized within a period of 4-7 years. While the filling will take place during the wet season, generally from July to August, starting from this year, it will continue in September subject to certain conditions.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs disclosed that the a draft deal has been agreed between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) following a meeting in Washington, US, with the countries reaching an agreement that the dam should be filled in stages.

“We had a very fruitful meeting and Ethiopia didn’t compromise its national interest and will not do in the future as well,” said Gedu Andargachew, Minister of Foreign Affairs. “All rounds of talk held regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will not restrict Ethiopia’s rights to build other dams.”

The preliminary agreement reached during a meeting held 13-15 January, which was attended by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Water Resources of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and their delegations, as well as the Secretary of the US Treasury and the President of the World Bank.  The three countries, in a joint statement issued on January 15, agreed that the filling of the GERD will be executed in stages.

The filling will be undertaken in an adaptive and cooperative manner that takes into consideration the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the potential impact of the filling on downstream reservoirs. The initial filling stage of the GERD will provide for the rapid achievement of a level of 595 meters above sea level and the early generation of electricity, while providing appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan in case of severe droughts during this stage, according to the preliminary draft agreement of the three countries.

The subsequent stages of filling will be done according to a mechanism to be agreed that determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of the GERD that addresses the filling goals of Ethiopia and provides electricity generation and appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan during prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought, the agreement says.

However, as no comprehensive agreement has been signed so far, the ministers of the three countries have now agreed to meet again in Washington from 28-29 January to sign a final pact on the filling and operation of the GERD. If they do so, an effective coordination mechanism and provisions for the settlement of disputes will be established. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry also said on January 16, 2020 that Egypt is “cautiously optimistic that we are reaching a critical point” in the negotiations.

But Egyptian officials, who spoke to Mada Masr, an Egyptian media outlet, on condition of anonymity, say that Cairo finds itself in a weak negotiating position with little outside support and is coming under pressure to agree to a less than favorable deal. An official member of the Egyptian delegation in Washington described the negotiations to Mada Masr as a “disaster” as the talks proceeded on Tuesday.

Another official source confirmed to Mada Masr that the talks were not going well and that the Trump administration was pressuring Egypt to accept the minimum conditions in order to finalize a deal.

Mada Masr reported, citing a source at Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation, that the Trump administration is pressuring Egypt to accept Ethiopia’s proposals in return for compensation from the World Bank in the case of any water shortages. The nature of the compensation, however, is unclear as yet.

Last week, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) called on South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in the long-running dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan over the operation and filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

“Ramaphosa is “a good friend for both Ethiopia and Egypt and is the upcoming president of the African Union. He can make a discussion between both parties to solve the issue peacefully because peace is the foundation of everything here in Africa,” said Abiy on January 12, 2020, at a press conference in Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa.

Ramaphosa, in his part, said he was open to the suggestion and confirmed that he had already spoken with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi about the matter.

Ethiopia began construction of the huge renaissance dam in 2011, and this has triggered concerns that the massive project would cause water shortages in Egypt, which relies on the Nile for 90Pct of its water supply for the population and for agriculture. On the other hand, Ethiopia, which has planned to complete the dam by 2022, pledged that GERD will have insignificant damage on downstream countries.

The Dam was first planned to have an installed capacity of 6,450MW of power. However, the project office of the Dam recently slashed the installed capacity to 5,150MW, reducing the number of turbines to be installed for power generation.

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