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Ethiopia set to proceed with disputed Nile dam project, says not legally obliged to seek Sudan and Egypt’s approval

Ethiopia set to proceed with disputed Nile dam project, says not legally obliged to seek Sudan and Egypt’s approval

Brewing another crisis in the region, despite the corona pandemic, Ethiopia announced its intentions of going ahead with a reservoir filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in July. Since the inception of the GERD project in 2011, built on Blue Nile river, Egypt objected to it as it would significantly cut its water supply. Egypt’s population depends on the Blue Nile for more than 85 per cent of their water needs. Cairo fears that the reservoir filling of the upstream dam would lead to dangerous consequences including reduced water supply, food insecurity, joblessness, destroyed supply chain and increased chances of drought.

Egyptian population is currently surviving on water supply of about 570 cubic metres per person per year, which is way less than the water scarcity level of 1,000 cubic metres per person annually. Experts fear that this figure would fall down to 500 cubic metres by 2025.

Earlier this month, with increasing Ethiopia’s adamance over filling the dam’s reservoir without nod from Egypt, the latter took the matter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). In response to Cairo’s complaint, Addis Ababa submitted a 22-page long response to the organisation on 14 May, mentioning construction details, history, facts and its side of “truth about the tripartite negotiation with Egypt and the Sudan.”

With regard to proceeding with the dam work despite the rejection from the two, Ethiopia told UNSC that it “does not have a legal obligation to seek the approval of Egypt to fill the dam”.

Ethiopia, clarified that it approached Egypt and Sudan for an interim agreement to initiate the first filling, which it said would take place over the period of two years. Ethiopia wants the entire reservoir to be filled in seven years, while Egypt proposed that it should take over 10 years to do so.

Both, Egypt and Sudan, have been against the ambitious project, which would make Ethiopia Africa’s largest power exporter, as it could leave Egypt in severe water crisis and Sudan flooded, if the dam located on its border collapsed. Both the nations highlighted the flawed engineering which went into construction of a massive $4.8 billion project. They said that Addis Ababa did not conduct enough studies to calculate the risks.

“Egypt should engage the international community in Ethiopia’s falsification… and show Ethiopia’s true colours to the world. This would lead to international pressure on Ethiopia on the importance of coordination over the GERD,” Nader Noureldin, professor of water resources and land reclamation at Cairo University’s Faculty of Agriculture, told Ahram Online.

He added, “Ethiopia remains bent on the first filling and construction, as if the Nile were not an international river, or as if it were a private river which belongs only to Addis Ababa”.

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