Husain Mohamed – 15/07/2020
Ethiopia’s water minister has announced that the country has begun filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a massive hydroelectric dam it is building on the Blue Nile. Seleshi Bekele said that the construction of the dam and the filling of water go hand in hand.
This comes after talks with Sudan and Egypt became deadlocked. No agreement was reached in tripartite negotiations held between July 3 and July 13 at the initiative of the African Union on the filling and operation of the GERD.
The $4.5 billion dam has been under construction for nine years, and once operational, will be the largest hydroelectric power plant on the African continent. It is capable of producing 6.4 gigawatts of power.
The project has created opposition from fellow Nile River countries Egypt and Sudan who fear it will affect their access to fresh water. Egypt – which relies on the Nile for 90% of its freshwater needs – sees the project as a potentially existential threat. Sudan, however, stands to benefit from the project through access to cheap electricity and reduced flooding, but it has also raised fears over the dam’s operation
The quarrelsome talks date back to the beginning of the project and have included several mediators. In January this year, the three countries met in Washington, D.C., for talks mediated by the U.S. and the World Bank. It seemed that the parties were close to agreeing technical terms at the time, but negotiations came to a halt more recently over whether the agreement will be legally binding under international law. Egypt and Sudan believe Ethiopia should not move forward with filling the dam until an agreement is signed.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed believes the future of the country is intertwined with the future of the GERD project.