The formal notification by Ethiopia that it has resumed filling the Grand Renaissance Dam is a critical moment. [See below]
For Egypt this is an existential question – since the country relies on the Nile for over 95% of its water.
But for Ethiopia this is an equally critical question: its policy of electrifying and modernising its economy relies on the dam.
One path could lead to Egyptians going thirsty, the other path leads to Ethiopians going hungry. For both governments this is not a question they can afford to compromise on.
Talks are due to be held at the UN Security Council on Thursday, but talks have been going on about the use of the Nile waters for decades. When – in 2010 – Ethiopia announced that it would build the dam these negotiations took on a new urgency. But they led nowhere.
As the Wilson Centre pointed out:
“The two countries held countless talks, hired commissions of experts to report on the impact of the dam and in 2015 even agreed on a declaration of principles not to inflict damage on each other. However, they could never agree on the crucial details: the timetable for filling the reservoir and what to do in years of drought — in early 2020 Egypt insisted the filling should take from twelve to twenty years, depending on the amount of rainfall while Ethiopia, with a $5 billion investment in the dam and urgent need to show returns, insisted on five to seven. In 2019 the United States offered to mediate, but the effort got nowhere because these crucial details were never finalized and eventually Ethiopia suspended its participation.”
The military option
Going back to the UN Security Council is unlikely to magically produce a solution, which leaves only one other alternative for Egypt and their Sudanese allies – and that is to turn to their military. Cairo and Khartoum signed a military agreement in March this year. Will they put it into action?
It is difficult to see how a military option would work against the dam, but there are few other alternatives for Egypt or Sudan. The time appears to be fast approaching when they either take some kind of action or do what they have sworn not to do – accept the dam on the Blue Nile as a fait accompli.
If they accept the dam on Ethiopia’s terms then Cairo and Khartoum will be left appealing to Addis Ababa not to fill the dam too fast and to release waters in a severe drought. But they would be in a weak position, without the binding international agreement regulating the dam that they have always wanted.
This could be a decisive moment.
Egypt notified that Ethiopia has resumed filling of dam
CAIRO, July 5 (Reuters) – Egypt’s irrigation minister said on Monday he had received official notice from Ethiopia that it had begun filling the reservoir behind its giant hydropower dam, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), for a second year.
Egypt has informed Ethiopia of its categorical rejection of the measure, which it regards as a threat to regional stability, Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty said in a statement.
Ethiopia says the dam on its Blue Nile is crucial to its economic development and providing power to its population.
Egypt views the dam as a grave threat to its Nile water supplies, on which it is almost entirely dependent. Sudan, another downstream country, has expressed concern about the safety of the dam and the impact on its own dams and water stations.
Egypt and Sudan have been engaged in a diplomatic campaign for a legally binding deal over the dam’s operation, but talks have repeatedly stalled.
The diplomatic push intensified ahead of the first filling of the dam with last summer’s rains in Ethiopia, and again in recent weeks ahead of the second filling.
The U.N. Security Council is expected to discuss the issue on Thursday, and Abdel Aty had written to the council to inform it of the latest developments, the statement said.