Ethiopia invites Egypt, Sudan to nominate operators in data exchange on GERD’s 2nd filling

Mohammed El-Said
5 Min Read

Ethiopia has invited Egypt and Sudan to nominate their representatives as dam operators to exchange data before the second filling of the former’s controversial dam.

It also highlighted its intention to commence the dam’s filling during the upcoming rainy seasons in July.

In a statement from Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy Seleshi Bekele to his counterparties in the two downstream countries, he said that Addis Ababa has “invited the two countries to nominate focal persons/ dam operators to exchange data among the three countries with regards to the second-year filling which will take place in July and August 2021.”

The invitation came just four days after the official announcement of the failure of the latest round of negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), held in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kinshasa, on 4-5 April.

Bekele said, “The invitation was based on the consensus that was reached on the filling schedule formulated by the National Independent Scientific Research Group (NISRG)” featuring representatives from the three countries.

This is “along with the period of the filling in July and August, and it may continue in September depending on the hydrology of the river.”

Commenting on the latest Ethiopian remarks, Egypt’s former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Nasr El-Din Allam described the Ethiopian remarks as “continuation of its policy of imposing a fait accompli and limiting negotiations to the second filling only, instead of negotiating on the full filling and operating the GERD.” 

The Ethiopian way is a “cheap method of an aggressive administration [the Ethiopian government],” Allam said. 

On 6 February, Bekele confirmed that 78.3% of the construction work on the GERD had been completed. He said that the progress achieved during the past six months is the fastest since the construction of the dam began.

Both Cairo and Khartoum fear the consequences related to the filling and operation of the $4.6bn mega-dam, as it may restrict their vital water supplies. 

However, Sudan has doubts about the safety of the dam’s constructions which threatens its national security and could harm hundreds of thousands of people in the closest country to GERD’s location. 

The statement underlined the importance of immediate conclusion of an agreement on the rules and guidelines on first filling in accordance with Article 5a of the 2015 Declaration of Principles (DOP).

The article stated the importance of reaching “an agreement on the guidelines for different scenarios of the first filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam reservoir in parallel with the construction of the dam”.

Ethiopia, however, has ignored that same article, stressing that the three countries should cooperate to use the final findings in the studies recommended by the Tripartite National Technical Committee and international technical experts in order to do so. 

Moreover, Article 4 of the DOP said that the three countries will use their common water sources in their provinces in a fair and appropriate manner. 

This will take into consideration all guiding elements, including: Social and economic needs for the concerned Nile Basin countries; the residents who depend on water sources in each of the Nile Basin countries; and the current and possible uses of water sources.

Egypt blamed Ethiopia for the failure of talks and rejecting the proposal submitted by Sudan, which the former supported, to form an international quartet, led by DRC as the current chair of the African Union (AU), to mediate between the three concerned parties.

Cairo and Khartoum announced that they will resort to the UN Security Council to brief them on the developments in the GERD dispute. This will entail their asking the UN to shoulder their responsibilities in this issue to avoid a potential conflict in the Nile Valley. 

Egypt is depending on the River Nile flow to meet about 97% of its present water needs. With only 660 cbm of water per person, Egypt has one of the world’s lowest annual per capita water shares. Therefore, Cairo fears that the Ethiopian mega-dam could affect its water share.

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Mohammed El-Said is the Science Editor for the Daily News Egypt with over 8 years of experience as a journalist. His work appeared in the Science Magazine, Nature Middle East, Scientific American Arabic Edition, SciDev and other regional and international media outlets. El-Said graduated with a bachelor's degree and MSc in Human Geography, and he is a PhD candidate in Human Geography at Cairo University. He also had a diploma in media translation from the American University in Cairo.