GERD: Issue of survival, sovereignty

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Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have been engaging in talks since 2014 to reach a final agreement on the operation of Ethiopia’s hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile. The Ethiopian government has been reiterating its criticism of an Egypt proposal on the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) considering it as issue of national sovereignty and survival.

In its statement recently, Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that any move that doesn’t respect Ethiopia’s sovereignty and its right to use the dam has no acceptance. And it rejected Egypt’s proposal on the filling of the dam including the volume of water it wants the dam to release annually.

“The proposal doesn’t accept and respect the current and future rights and development plans of the country over Nile and complicates filling of the dam.”

Ethiopia believes that inappropriate unilateral moves that could disrupt the spirit of trust and cooperation build among the three countries for the past seven years should be stopped said Nebiat Getchew, Spokesperson at Ministry.

During a discussion on the progress of the dam with stakeholders last Tuesday, Tefera Beyene, Border and Cross-Border Rivers Affairs Advisor at Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Electricity (MWIE) said that Egypt’s proposal about GERD water filling remained as a point of disagreement between two countries as it crossed the red line.

Egypt’s proposal in negotiations over the dam to release 40 billion cubic meters of water every year when the Aswan Dam goes below 165 meters above sea level is contrary to the national interest of Ethiopia.

Egypt’s new proposal about the filling of the GERD is against Ethiopia’s national sovereignty and survival, he added.

“It is against the consent and wishes of Ethiopia and Sudan, negatively affects the sustainable cooperation between the parties, undermines the ample opportunity for technical dialogue between the three countries and disrupts the positive spirit of cooperation.”

Engineer Kifle Horo, GERD Project Manager on his part said that the construction of the dam has cost 99 billion birr so far. Some 40 billion needed to complete it. Now the construction of the dam has jumped over 68.5 percent completion status and the construction continued day and night.

Office Communication Director Hailu Abraham recently told The Ethiopian Herald that to finalize the construction of GERD, the government has given due emphasis to speeding up the delayed hydraulics and electro-mechanical works.

 Ethiopia has no intention to monopolize the water supply of the Nile as it is working for mutual benefits with riparian countries. “At this time, the major focus of the government is to carry on with the construction while at the same time engaging in negotiations with Nile Basin countries.” The completion of the construction of the dam will cost about 130 to 150 billion Birr.

Recently, speaking to local media, Dr. Sileshi Bekele Minister at MWIE said that Egypt has proposed its own plans which suggested the filling of the dam’s reservoir to be conducted within seven years period of time and a minimum guaranteed release of 40 billion meter cubic of water every year as well as demand to maintain Aswan dam at 165 meter above sea level.

Ethiopia also rejected annual release of water on the bases that such stringent condition of annual flow release is not acceptable to Ethiopia as it prolongs the filling of the GERD.

Ethiopia rejected the demand saying the request is technically impractical and is tantamount to agreeing to hold the operation of the GERD hostage to Egyptian water use downstream, he stated.

Recently, Ethiopia has announced the plan to finalize GERD project in 2023. At the end of the works, it will be the largest dam in Africa with a total installed power generation capacity of 6,450 MW.

The Ethiopian Herald October 17, 2019

 BY TSEGAYE TILAHUN