HomeNewsEthiopia's US$ 5bn Grand Renaissance Dam Project Updates

Ethiopia’s US$ 5bn Grand Renaissance Dam Project Updates

According to reports, Ethiopia has begun concrete construction on the body of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, particularly on the western side, in preparation for the third filling.

The total storage of the first and second fills during the last two years is eight billion cubic meters. On April 14, turbine No. 10 was operational while water continued to flow through one of the two drainage holes. Some islands appeared as a result of insufficient storage.

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Ethiopia is aiming for third storage of around 10 billion cubic meters by raising the dam by 20 meters, which equates to approximately 1.3 million cubic meters of concrete, which is unfeasible given the time remaining for the fresh flood (which begins in less than three months).

Disputes around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project

Negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam have been formally halted since April 2021, when Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia failed to reach an agreement prior to the commencement of the dam’s second filling, which Ethiopia implemented in July. Ethiopia’s insistence on filling the dam before obtaining a solid agreement on filling and operation is rejected by Cairo and Khartoum.

Egypt, which relies heavily on Nile water, has expressed concern that the GERD will severely influence the country’s water supply. Egypt has also insisted on safeguards to protect downstream nations in the event of drought during the dam’s filling operation. Egypt and Sudan seek a legally enforceable deal, whereas Ethiopia wants any agreement to be consultative. Egypt and Sudan see the project as a danger to their important water resources, but Ethiopia sees it as necessary for growth and increasing its energy production.

The downstream nations are concerned about potential damage to water systems, agricultural land, and the total supply of Nile water. Negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over the project have been deadlocked for years, with the three countries ultimately failing to achieve a firm deal. The controversial dam is Africa’s largest hydropower project, costing more than four billion dollars. The dam’s construction began in 2011.

Reported earlier

2010

Ethiopia announced plans to build the dam on the Blue Nile River with the potential to supply over 5000MW of electricity which would make it the largest hydropower project on the continent.

Shortly thereafter Egypt protested citing a pre-colonial agreement that gave Egypt exclusive control over the use of the Nile waters upstream.

2011

The Ethiopian government signed a contract with Salini Impreglio S.p.A to build the Grand Renaissance Dam Project at a cost of US$4.8 billion and the then Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi laid a foundation stone effectively commencing construction works.

That year a tripartite committee met for the first time over the GERD project and its effect on the three countries Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan.

2012

President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt visited Ethiopia with hopes of making Ethiopia appreciate Egypt’s concerns

2013

Ethiopia diverts the Nile waters in order to begin construction of the actual dam wall. President Morsi’s regime is overthrown in Egypt and talks stall for a while before resuming

2014

In 2014 real progress appears to be made when Egypt under President El-Sisi agreed that Ethiopia can develop the Grand Renaissance Dam Project under certain conditions. This agreement was drawn up under the Malabo Declaration

Several committees, experts, and consultants are commissioned to help study, provide recommendations and stave off any future disputes. By this time the dam is 32 percent complete.

March 2015

Ethiopia’s US$ 5bn Grand Renaissance Dam project to be complete in 2017

Construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia, which commenced in April 2011, is set for completion in July 2017. 50% of the work has already been completed, and 700MW first stage was expected to be operational by this year.

When completed, the Grand Renaissance Dam will help generate 6,000 megawatts for domestic and export. The 170-meter tall dam will prevent flooding by managing up to 19,370 cubic meters per second and reducing alluvium in Sudan by 100 million cubic meters.

The dam construction project will also help in providing water to irrigate 500,000ha of new agricultural lands and serve as a bridge across the Blue Nile, which has few bridges and pedestrian bridges. Grand Renaissance Dam is being constructed in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia, on the Blue Nile River, about 40km east of Sudan.

The US$ 5bn development is owned by Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO) and is not only expected to serve Ethiopia but also Sudan and Egypt.

Construction of two outdoor power stations having 3,750MW and 2,250MW in installed capacities will also be undertaken. They will have 16 units each generating 375MW. A 500kV switchyard to ferry power from the stations will also be constructed.

Metals & Engineering Corporation (METEC) has entered into an agreement with Alstom to supply turbines, generators, and all electromechanical equipment for the Grand Renaissance Dam power plant.

The country, which floated a US$1bn bond to fund construction and energy projects last year December and planned to spend US$ 20bn for power generation between 2015-2020, has also announced it would construct a US$700m dam on Gebba River and was planning to add 40MW to the grid through expansion of Ashegoda wind power plants.

April 2015

Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan agree on the Grand Renaissance dam project

Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have signed an agreement in relation to the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam, with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi saying the project will not affect Egypt as feared before. The new signing is expected to be an assurance to Egypt and Sudan that the dam project will be undertaken carefully while putting their interests at heart.

The newly signed accord will however see Ethiopia undertake the construction of the dam without harming Egypt and Sudan. Egypt has been heavily reliant on River Nile for agriculture and has previously protested the construction of the dam fearing that the project would reduce the volume of water downstream.

The project would entail the diversion of the Nile to source water for electricity production in Ethiopia. The 6,000 MW Grand Renaissance Dam, which is expected to be completed in 2017, will be Africa’s largest dam. Phase 1 of the dam project was, however, expected to come online this year to see a production of 700MW. The project will take a spend of US$5bn.

The leaders watched a film on how the project could benefit their countries. “I confirm the construction of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam will not cause any damage to our three states and especially to the Egyptian people,” said Hailemariam Desalegn, the Ethiopian prime minister, at the signing ceremony held in Khartoum, Sudan, also attended by Sudan President Omar al-Bashir.

“We have chosen cooperation, and to trust one another for the sake of development.” Said Al Sisi, adding that it will not harm the interests of Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia also said the river would be diverted but will later follow its course.

Al-Bashir, who was also present at the signing ceremony, said the deal was historic. The Grand Ethiopia Renaissance dam will be 170 meters tall and will help reduce alluvium in Sudan and manage flooding at 19,370 cubic meters per second. 16 units each with a generating capacity of 375MW will be installed and two 3,750MW and 2,250MW outdoor power stations constructed.

The project will also establish a bridge across the Blue Nile and provide water for irrigating 500,000ha of new agricultural lands. The project is being undertaken by Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO).

International consultancy firms selected for Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
Construction of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt have arrived at an international firm that will oversee the implementation of hydraulic and environmental studies on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project. The selection was done by water ministers from the three countries who met last week Wednesday for the selection exercise.

A statement released in follow-up to the meeting said the names will be officially disclosed when the committee obtains clearance from the lead consultant. Ethiopia water and energy minister, Alemayehu Tegenu said after the meeting that the two firms would study the hydrological simulation model and transboundary socio-economic and environmental impact assessment on the dam. The studies would be done according to recommendations by a panel of experts that had previously studied the impact of GERD downstream.

The consultants will conduct the studies and see them implemented to ensure that the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is done without affecting volumes that flow to Sudan and Egypt. An official from Ethiopia said last week that the firm would be expected to complete its work within five months to a year. Construction of the 6,000 MW dam is expected to end in 2017.

Egypt and Ethiopia had settled on different firms and so the announcement for the selected consultant could not be made in March as earlier planned.

Once completed, GERD would be the largest dam in Africa. Currently, 42% of construction work is completed. The country, which is planning to spend S$ 20bn for power generation from 2015-2020 through Phase two of the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), is hoping to add more power into the grid in addition to projects such as the Ashegoda wind power plant expansion.

The meeting comes after the three (Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia) signed an accord that allows execution of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project without harming countries downstream. Egypt, which heavily relies on River Nile for agriculture, had earlier protested the construction of the dam saying it would reduce the volume of water downstream.

Nov 2015

Egypt’s Raises Concerns Over Renaissance Dam Construction Project in Ethiopia

Egypt's raises concerns over Renaissance Dam construction project in Ethiopia
Hossam Mogazi, Egyptian Minister for water and irrigation

Renaissance Dam construction project in Ethiopia is a project which has elicited disputes between the Egyptian and Ethiopian governments for a while now. According to Egyptian Irrigation Minister Hossam Moghazi of Egypt has shared its citizens’ concerns regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that is expected to affect Egypt’s annual share of Nile water and what will be the impact of the project for the two countries.

Moghazi said in a press conference on the sidelines of his inspection visit to a group of water projects in Sharqiya governorate that Egypt is exerting effort in order to eliminate such worries on an objective and scientific basis and through ‘meaningful dialogue’ with other Nile basin countries.

Moghazi said in the dam meeting, to be convened in Cairo, would be held to resolve the conflicts between the foreign consultancies firms conducting studies related to the Ethiopian dam. He said that several pivotal alternatives would be raised in order to resolve the conflict. Only experts from Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan will attend Saturday’s meeting in Cairo. According to Moghazi, a report will then be delivered to the three countries’ irrigation ministers.

A meeting will then take place between the three countries’ irrigation ministers, as well as possibly the foreign ministers, in order to reach an agreement. Moghazi also affirmed that Egypt’s share of Nile water is non-negotiable, adding that it will work on increasing the country’s share of Nile water.

According to Moghazi, there has been a noticeable development in the relationship between Egypt and Nile Basin countries. He added that Egypt is “rectifying the mistakes of the past,” making the relationship with Nile basin countries a priority for foreign policy.

In September, Dutch consultancy firm Deltares withdrew from the assessment of the dam.
Deltares stated that it had withdrawn from the project because the conditions imposed by the Tripartite National Committee (TNC) — which includes representatives from Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, as well as the French consultancy firm BRL — did not provide sufficient guarantees to Deltares that an independent high-quality study could be carried out.

Since then, the future of the Renaissance Dam negotiations has remained unclear after several postponed meetings in October. According to the irrigation ministry, Egypt is suffering from a water deficit of 20 billion cubic meters, which it compensates through water recycling, an inadvisable process in the long term.

Construction of Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia Continues Months After Stalling

Egypt, Sudan hold discussion on Ethiopian Renaissance dam

The construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia has commenced months after stalling, signaling hope that the dam will be completed. Egypt has long protested that the dam is harmful to the country and that the construction of the dam has no economic or technical justification.

Although the countries involved-Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt hired experts to analyze the effects of the dam, the countries were not able to agree on how the analysis should be carried out. But speaking to the media, the Egyptian Minister for Irrigation Hossam Moghazi said the project had stalled due to a misunderstanding between the Egyptian and Ethiopian officials.

“There is an extreme delay in achieving the road map we agreed on in August 2014, compared to the construction rates of the Grand Renaissance Dam,” said Moghazi at the opening session of the ninth tripartite committee meeting in Cairo.

It is this misunderstanding that caused the withdrawal of consultancy firm Deltares from the assessment of the dam, saying that the conditions imposed by the tripartite national committee — which includes representatives from Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, as well as the French consultancy firm BRL — did not provide sufficient guarantees to Deltares that an independent high-quality study could be carried out.

The future of negotiations has remained unclear after several postponed meetings in October.

According to the irrigation ministry, Egypt is suffering from a water deficit of 20 billion cubic metres, which it compensates for through water recycling, an inadvisable process in the long term.

The Grand  Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia, now under construction on the Blue Nile River and scheduled to be completed in 2017, will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant with a storage capacity of 74 billion cubic meters of water.

The plan to construct the Renaissance dam in Ethiopia was first mooted in 2011 when the country announced that it was intending to construct the largest dam in the world on the Nile. The dam’s construction contract was given to Italy’s Salini, which is also building the controversial Gibe II Dam on Ethiopia’s Omo River.

The project’s launch came in the midst of the Egyptian revolution, which some observers believe was intended to take advantage of the more powerful nation’s confused political state at a time when the issue of who controls the Nile is heating up.

For now, the project continues but it remains to be seen whether it will be constructed to completion, considering the glitches that it has faced.

Jan 2016

Wrangles Over Construction of Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia Continues

Plans by Egypt to redesign Nile Dam-where Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia is being constructed have been opposed by Ethiopia. The Grand Renaissance Dam is expected to be the largest power plant in Africa.

Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia, being constructed along River Nile has been on the center stage of disagreement between the two countries for more than two years.

According to the state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation Egypt has sought an increase in the number of outlets at the massive dam under-construction to allow water flow to downstream countries (Egypt and Sudan). This comes barely a few days after Egypt showed up some fears on the construction and their main fear comes out on what would be Africa’s largest power plant would severely curb its historical water share.

Plans by Egypt to redesign Nile Dam, therefore, are intended according to authorities to safeguard water sources. During the recently held tripartite meeting between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan, Cairo has proposed an increase of water outlets at the dam from two to four to allow much more water flow and thereby prevent a significant reduction in water flow to lower riparian nations.

Ethiopia, however, rejected the proposal saying enough impact studies had already been conducted. Ethiopia launched the Nile dam project in 2011. Egypt whose people depend on the river for water sources says the $ 4.2 billion huge projects will disrupt the flow of the Nile River and see it as a national water security threat.

However, Ethiopia says the project never intended to harm Egyptians but is necessary for the development and should be taken as a symbol of cooperation among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. Ethiopian officials stress that the main goal of the dam is “combating poverty and realizing development and prosperity”

Renaissance Dam construction project in Ethiopia in good course

The construction of the  Ethiopia Renaissance Dam is on a good course despite stiff opposition from Egypt. Reports from Ethiopia Electric and Power Corporation seem to indicate that the dam will soon start generating 750MW of electricity.

However, Egypt is concerned that the dam will be utilized for irrigation in Ethiopia, resulting in reduced downstream supply. However, Ethiopia maintains that there are no hidden agendas except power generation. But Ethiopia is reported to have ordered a total of 16 turbines from global firms.

Debretsion Gebremichael, Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister for finance and economic cluster and minister of communication and information technology, has reassured that the government has no financial constraints and construction is on track for completion in July 2017.

The plan to construct the Renaissance dam in Ethiopia was first mooted in 2011 when the country announced that it was intending to construct the largest dam in the world on the Nile. But since then, the dam has been hit by wrangles that have slowed its construction. For instance, last year plans by Egypt to redesign Nile Dam-where Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia is being constructed were opposed by Ethiopia.

March 2016

Satellite to monitor construction of Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Satellite to monitor construction of Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Egypt will now use Satellites to monitor the construction of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
The North African country launched the satellite early this month to monitor Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam by capturing high-quality photos of the construction site along with other areas of the Nile.

According to Egypt’s National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences vice president Alaa El-din El-Nahry, the country wants to track the entire process of constructing the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Egypt believes the dam, which is currently only 30 percent complete, will hugely impact its share of the Nile, the country’s main source of water. El-Nahry said the satellite will be operational in mid-June after a two-month test period. It will track the dam’s height, storage capacity, and water discharge.

It will also monitor the Kongo River basin to assess the effectiveness of a proposed project to link the Kongo and Nile rivers, El-Nahry said. Egyptian officials said the satellite will be a reliable source of information that will be used in case it must resort to international arbitration over any violations in the dam’s stated purpose of electricity generation, El-Nahry said, according to Al-Ahram’s daily Arabic newspaper.

Last year, Ethiopia and five other Nile-basin countries – Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Burundi – endorsed the Co-operative Framework Agreement, which replaces a 1929 treaty granting Egypt veto power over any project on the Nile in upstream countries.

April 2016

Egypt, Sudan Hold Discussion on Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Egypt, Sudan hold discussion on Ethiopian Renaissance dam

Egyptian and Sudanese officials early this week held talks on the way forward on the controversial Ethiopia hydro-power plant project, dabbed Ethiopian Renaissance dam. According to Egyptian officials, the talks involved getting long-lasting solutions to the problems facing the project that is being built at the horn of Africa.

Egypt’s minister of water resources and irrigation, Mohamed Abdel-Atti took some time with his Sudanese counterpart, Moataz Moussa at Khartoum over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The two sides reportedly discussed their concerns on the potential impact of the massive dam project. This will see the project continue smoothly after it was rocked with wrangles despite the fact that the project is halfway complete.

The meeting comes weeks after Ethiopia announced the construction of the multi-billion dollar project past the halfway mark, and prepares for an initial power generation. The project that was launched back in 2011 was supposed to be complete in five years’ time though it hasn’t been able for the contractor to beat the deadline over wrangles.

Cairo, which relies almost exclusively on the Nile river resources for water consumption, argues that the construction of the dam project will disrupt the flow of the Nile and fears it would eventually diminish its water share. The North African nation demanded that the Ethiopian government halts the construction of the hydropower project until an independent impact study, assuring that the dam will not significantly cut the water flow to its territory.

Egypt is keenly looking into gaining from the project as it is expected to pump more power to the National greed. Power shortages have been rocking the country considering the fact that the country’s population is at the growing end also more projects have been on the rise.

Jun 2016

Why technical discussions are needed for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Why technical discussions are needed for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
By Dale Whittington Professor of Environmental Sciences & Engineering, City & Regional Planning, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, under construction on the Blue Nile near the Ethiopian-Sudanese border, is now approximately 50% complete. The initial filling will start this year and will begin in earnest in 2017.

The idea of a dam on the Nile in Ethiopia – and the threat this would pose for Egypt – has been on the minds of the people of the Nile basin for centuries. Ethiopia has long claimed a right to use Nile waters, but it was only in 2011 that Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, announced that Ethiopia would begin construction of a large dam on the Blue Nile, near its border with Sudan.

The advantages of storing water in the Blue Nile gorge for hydropower generation and flood control have been recognized for decades. But until recently Ethiopia did not have the political or financial strength to pursue this economic development strategy.

The GERD will have a height of 145m – compared with 110m for the Aswan High Dam in Egypt and 101m for the Three Gorges Dam in China. It will have nearly three times the installed hydropower generation capacity (6,000MW) of the Aswan High Dam (2,100MW) and will be the largest hydroelectric power facility in Africa.

When the GERD is finished, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, as well as the other Nile riparian countries, will face a new situation in the management of a large international river. There will be two very large dams, the GERD and Egypt’s Aswan High Dam, on the same river, but in different countries. Both will be able to store a volume of water greater than the annual flow of the river at the site. And both will be in a river basin subject to severe droughts, and one in which future demands for water for irrigation far exceed the available water supply even in normal years.

No agreement yet

To date, there is no agreement between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt on the filling policy for the GERD reservoir. Nor is there agreement on the coordination of the operations of the GERD, the Aswan High Dam, and dams in Sudan. Agreements on both issues are needed to achieve the full benefits of GERD and to prevent significant harm to Egypt during periods of prolonged drought.

Most of the economic benefits from GERD will be from hydropower generation, which is essentially a non-consumptive use of water. After the GERD’s filling period – which could be five to 15 years, depending on the sequence of high and low flows that occur and the amount of water Ethiopia releases – it should be possible for Ethiopia to operate the GERD in such a way that Egypt suffers relatively little harm.

Sudan will benefit because the GERD will smooth variations in the Nile flow. This will result in increased water availability during the low-flow summer months, more hydropower generation from Sudanese dams at Sennar, Roseires, and Merowe, and reduced flood damages. But during a multi-year drought and during the filling of the GERD, Egypt and Sudan need confidence that water will be released from the GERD to meet their basic requirements and prevent significant harm.

The hard work is just beginning

On March 23, 2015, the leaders of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan signed a Declaration of Principles in Khartoum. It moved their countries closer to cooperation on the sharing of Nile waters. The consensus was reached on ten general principles. This declaration was essentially a commitment to finding common ground on what had become an increasingly acrimonious dispute over Ethiopia’s decision in 2011 to build the GERD. But the hard negotiations over the specifics of filling the GERD’s reservoir and coordinating the operations of the dam and the Aswan High Dam are only beginning.

Coordinating releases from the GERD and the Aswan High Dam requires careful advanced planning in order to ensure that Egypt and Sudan receive the water they need for irrigation, municipal, and other uses. It needs proper infrastructure for monitoring flows, quality assurance protocols for data, and close and trusted communications between reservoir managers.

Negotiating and drafting an agreement will be difficult and take time. There is little shared understanding among water professionals, political leaders, and civil society in the Nile basin about how joint operating strategies, increased upstream water withdrawals, and hydrological events affect Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan.
Technicalities

The GERD can be operated to cause relatively little harm to Egypt and Sudan during normal hydrological conditions. But this is not a reason for complacency. During filling and times of drought, the level of the Aswan High Dam reservoir will fall. It may reach levels at which Egypt will have to reduce its releases downstream. Certainly, hydropower generation from the Aswan High Dam will be reduced.

During negotiations, Egypt is expected to argue that Ethiopia should release more water from the GERD as the level of the Aswan High Dam reservoir falls. In contrast, Ethiopia would likely argue that Egypt should reduce its downstream releases, perhaps even before a water shortage becomes severe. Ethiopia’s objective here is not to be difficult, but simply to maximize its hydropower generation.

The sale of the GERD’s hydropower is a key component of these negotiations. Ethiopia cannot use all the electricity generated from the GERD in the short to medium term because its domestic market for electricity is too small and it has other hydropower projects under construction. The total demand for electricity in Ethiopia at present is some 2,000MW while there is installed capacity exceeding 4,000MW following the recent completion of the 1,870MW Gibe 3 project. Ethiopia must sell to its neighbors, most likely Sudan and Kenya.

Kenya is a relatively small market for electricity sales, with a total national demand of only 1,512MW in 2015, much of which is supplied by domestic hydropower projects. Ethiopia has reached an agreement with Kenya to sell some 400MW to the country.

The funding comes from the World Bank, the French Development Agency, and the African Development Bank.

The GERD itself must be connected to the Sudan power grid by a new high-capacity interconnector before it would be possible to sell power from the GERD onto Sudan.
The financial success of the GERD for Ethiopia very much depends on its ability to sell this hydropower as soon as possible and at a reasonable price. But there has been no public announcement of a power trade agreement negotiated between Ethiopia and Sudan. Nor are there sufficiently large transmission lines being built from the GERD to the Sudanese or Kenyan power grids for the power.

The existing transmission line linking Ethiopia and Sudan was completed three to four years ago. It has a capacity to transfer 100MW and is not of much use for exporting hydropower from the GERD. If there are no high-capacity transmission lines from the GERD to Sudan, there is a very strong financial argument for Ethiopia to hold back as much water as possible in the GERD’s reservoir until it can sell the hydropower. And that is when problems between the countries may arise. It is in Egypt and Sudan’s interests, as well as Ethiopia’s, that the construction of these transmission lines from the GERD to Sudan commences as soon as possible.

Perceptions of fairness and trust matter in such negotiations, and they need to be carefully cultivated before crises arrive. Policymakers in Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have not yet adequately explained to civil society in their countries the inter-related factors that will affect water availability throughout the basin. They must explain the effects of large infrastructure development, irrigation developments, and climate change so that people will know the risks and rewards of cooperating with their neighbors.

Egypt’s biggest concern should be increased irrigation withdrawals in Sudan, which the GERD will facilitate by making more water available during the low-flow summer months. Increased irrigation withdrawals in Sudan will mean less water flows into the Aswan High Dam reservoir. Because there is little understanding in civil society of how the Nile river system behaves, the reasons for water shortages and falling reservoir levels may be misunderstood. Passions could become inflamed and difficult to control. In such an environment, mistakes can happen.

The international community can help in three ways. The first is the mobilization of global expertise and experience in the coordinated operation of multiple reservoirs on large river systems. The second is to provide an adjudication mechanism for helping to resolve disputes among the Nile riparians. The Nile riparians and the international community urgently need serious technical discussions to commence. The third is to provide financing for high-capacity transmission lines from the GERD to Sudan.

Jun 2016

Egypt seeks Israel intervention on Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Egypt seeks Israel intervention on Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has been requested by the Egyptian President, Mr. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to intervene in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam crisis so as to assist in solving the dispute between the two nations.

“Mr. Fattah al-Sisi has recently asked the Israel Prime Minister to help them resolve its Renaissance Dam dispute with Ethiopia due to Ethiopia’s intransigence and negation to react to the Egyptian requests to coordinate efforts during the construction and storage stages,” said a report.

Ethiopia believes that the national mega project will help lift its economy which is deteriorating.

Dangerous move

However, an Egyptian diplomat warned against al-Sisi’s move, pointing out that it could result in the full transfer of the Nile water to Israel since the present and former Israeli leaders have been calling for these discussions from the time when the Camp David agreement was signed.

The cities of Addis Ababa and Tel Aviv have in the past enjoyed close economic ties with each other where Israel has been providing a number of grants to Ethiopia over the past years. The GERD has been experiencing strained relations between Ethiopia and Egypt since the building began in 2011.

Jul 2017

Concerns Raised Over Renaissance Dam Downstream Nile States

Grand Renaissance Dam
Grand Renaissance Dam

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam might be a  major hydroelectric project for Ethiopia but its effects on downstream Nile states is raising jitters. Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty recently expressed his fears. “We will not allow our national interests, our national security to be endangered,” he said.

Upon completion, the hydroelectric dam will be the largest in Africa. It will produce about 6 000 MW which is nearly triple the current electricity generation capacity. It also represents a potential economic windfall for the Ethiopian government.

About 30% of Ethiopia’s population had access to electricity last year and more than 90% of households continued to rely on traditional fuels for cooking. Traditional fuels can cause respiratory infections. According to the World Health Organization, the leading cause of death in Ethiopia is an acute lower respiratory infection.

Even as the benefits of better access to electricity in Ethiopia are clear, creating a larger supply doesn’t mean demand will automatically follow. 70% of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas and relies on subsistence agriculture.

The government must also invest in developing human capital to increase incomes and push the demand for services. The standards of living also need to improve before Ethiopians can use the additional electricity.

The Ethiopian government may boost revenues through electricity exports from the dam. They have already signed power purchase agreements with their neighbors including Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Rwanda, and Djibouti.

Initially, Sudan was opposed to the dam’s construction. However, the country has warmed to the idea recently. This could be because Sudan has agreed to purchase electricity from the dam. The two countries have also agreed to work together on a free economic zone. Bilateralism has proved effective with Sudan but multilateral negotiations haven’t been fruitful.

GERD’S Negative influence

A report by the Geological Society of America shows that a period of between five and 15 years seemed reasonable. Nile’s freshwater flow to Egypt may be decreased by as much as 25%, with a loss of a third of the electricity generated by the Aswan High Dam. This would definitely be bad news for Egyptians.

Ethiopia however maintains that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project has been conducted with adequate transparency and involvement from the relevant stakeholders

The Khartoum Agreement which was signed in 2015 ostensibly mapped out a way forward. The implementation of the deal, however, hasn’t been easy, and flaws are starting to show. Earlier this year, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan had finished their 14 rounds of unsuccessful discussions about how to manage the Nile River.

Nov 2017

Ethiopia to continue with construction of the largest hydroelectric plant in Africa amid Egypt warning

Ethiopia will continue with the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on River Nile despite Egypt’s disapproval; Seleshi Bekele, the Ethiopian minister of water, electricity, and irrigation has said.

His remarks come even as a ternary meeting to discuss the future of the dam ended without an agreement. Egypt has time and again raised concerns that the huge hydro dam on the Nile would affect its share of water. Egypt President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi recently issued a stern warning to Ethiopia over the mega-dam. He said that water is a matter of life or death and no one can touch Egypt’s share of water.

This is Ethiopia’s first major dam on the Blue Nile. It will eventually start filling the giant reservoir behind it to power Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam. Mr. Bekele said that the construction of the Dam is 63% complete and is expected to generate electricity soon.

Renaissance Dam

The Renaissance Dam now in its seventh year has had a fair share of its challenges. Early this year Ethiopian Federal High Court sentenced members of a rebel group, the Benishangul Gumuz People’s Liberation Movement (BPLM), for their role in a hand grenade attack that killed nine people in an attempt to disrupt work on the Grand Ethiopian Rennaissance Dam.

Frequent discussions between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia on the hydroelectric2 dam have also bore no fruits.

Ethiopia says the dam is essential to its development and has repeatedly sought to reassure Egypt. However, Cairo’s efforts to persuade Addis Ababa to engage in closer coordination over the dam appear to have made little headway.

Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Meles Alem defended the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project. He further explained that the country does not need anyone’s permission to benefit from its natural resources.

2018 – Sisi and Abiy Ahmed agree on resuming cooperation efforts

January

Ethiopia rejected Egypt’s proposal to involve the World Bank as a technical party with an impartial view to decide on the differences in the work of the Tripartite National Committee.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry announced that an agreement has been reached during the tripartite summit on ending the technical studies of the Grand Renaissance Dam within a month, and further emphasized Egypt’s commitment to the Declaration of Principles.

June

President El-Sisi said he agreed with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed to enhance confidence and cooperation between the two countries, and that the two countries would work on a final agreement on the GERD issue that would ensure development and prosperity to the Ethiopian people and at the same time upholding Egypt’s water needs and rights.

Jan 2019

Growing anxiety in Egypt over Ethiopia Dam on Nile

Anxiety over water is growing in Egypt as Ethiopian leaders proceed with plans to build a colossal dam that officials in Egypt fear will block the flow of the Blue Nile. The construction of the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam began in 2011 when Egypt’s leaders were consumed with the Arab Spring uprising that ousted longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

The dam was to be completed by 2022 but is now four years behind schedule, the US $4.8bn dams would be the seventh-largest dam in the world and Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant. Which makes it a priority for Ethiopian leaders despite the worries of downriver countries that depend heavily on the Nile.

“It’s one of the most important flagship projects for Ethiopia,” said Seleshi Bekele, the country’s minister of water, irrigation, and electricity. But the 510-ft.-tall, 5,840-ft.-long structure would give Ethiopia jurisdiction over the source of the Blue Nile which together with the White Nile, is one of the two major tributaries of the Nile.

The Blue Nile supplies about 80% of the water in the Nile during the rainy season. The Blue Nile joins the White Nile at Khartoum and, like the Nile, flows through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria.

Egyptian officials insist that international agreements signed in 1929 and 1959 give Egypt rights to 55.5 billion cubic meters of Nile water per year. Sudan, which lies between the two countries, receives 18.5 billion cubic meters annually under the agreements. Those agreements also gave Egypt a veto on any projects proposed on the river. Egyptians are angry that Ethiopia moved forward in 2011 without consulting them.

The timetable for filling the reservoir is the most critical problem for Egypt. The faster Ethiopia fills the dam, the less water will flow to Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia theoretically could fill the reservoir to full capacity in three years. But Egypt is insisting on a more extended timetable of up to a decade to ease the transition.

Egypt is already near the U.N. threshold of water poverty, providing just 660 cubic meters of water per capita annually. The United Nations calls it one of the most water-stressed nations on the planet. Despite the delays, Cairo has enacted strict water-saving measures in anticipation of drier times to come.

GERD to launch it’s energy production

Ethiopia is set to start producing energy at the Grand Renaissance dam next year, according to Seleshi Bekele, Water, and Sanitation Minister. “We expect the dam to be fully operational by the end of 2022. 750MW of power is the planned initial production with two turbines by December next year,” said the Minister.

The Grand Renaissance Dam project, aiming to become Africa’s biggest power exporter in Ethiopia’s centerpiece expected to produce 6,000MW upon completion. The dam has also been a source of constant friction between Egypt and Ethiopia’s competing energy and water interests respectively.

Millennium Dam

Mr. Seleshi Bekele said that the US $4bn dam is 80% complete and the performance of hydro-mechanic work has reached 25%. He added that the ministry has bought nine turbines and an energy generator out of which some are at the port yet to be delivered.

Construction of the dam which was formally known as Millennium Dam, began in April 2011 and was expected to be accomplished by 2017. It however experienced delays due to delays in the electro-mechanical part of the construction as well as changes in design to accommodate higher generation capacity.

Moreover, the government has signed an agreement with GE Hydro France, a unit of GE Renewables, to accelerate the completion of the dam. The firm will be paid nearly US $61m to manufacture, fix and test turbine generators.

EEP signs US $200m agreement for completion of the GERD project

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

The Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) has signed two energy deals with Voith Hadro Shanghai and China Gezhouba Group Co., Ltd (CGGC) worth US$ 113m and US$ 40.1m respectively; whereby both companies will be working on civil/structural works required to complete the construction of the generating station and spillways of The Great Renaissance Dam (GERD).

According to the CEO of Ethiopian Electric Power, Dr. Engineer Abrham Belay, and Executive Vice President of Voith Hydro Shanghai, Tang Xu, the construction is expected to step up the construction of the dam by filling the previous gaps that occurred in the execution of the project.

GE Alstom, a US-French joint venture was previously awarded US $61m to install and commission the six-turbine units, two of which are expected to be finalized before 2020 to help early generation of 750MW.

So far, two companies have signed to install 11 turbine generators, each generating 400 megawatts of electricity. The electro-mechanical work in question was supposed to be done by Metal and Engineering Corporation (MetEC), the military-affiliated engineering complex. However, the Ethiopian government canceled the contract with MetEC because the latter failed to make much progress, creating substantial delays in the project.

April 2019

Construction of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam at 66% complete

Construction of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam at 66% complete

Construction works of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are well in progress and have reached 66%. GERD Project Manager, Eng. Kifle Horo announced the reports further explaining that 81% of the dam and 82% of the overall civil works have already been executed, while 94% and 99% of the saddle dam and the spillway, respectively are completed.

 

2019 – Negotiations stumble and resume, Egypt and Ethiopia’s leaders address the issue at the 74th UNGA

June

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Shoukri called for negotiations on the Dam to pick up the pace and further demanded that the agreements reached between the three involved countries be respected.

September

After months of suspension, Egypt’s request for a new round of negotiations between the 3 countries on the filling of the GERD reservoir and its rules of operation is granted and the negotiations are launched in Cairo.

However, the negotiations failed after Ethiopia rejected Egypt’s proposal, saying that it infringes on its sovereignty.

On the 24th of September, Egypt President Sisi and his Ethiopian counterpart Sahle-Work Zewde addressed the GERD issue at the UNGA’s 74th session. President El-Sisi called for international intervention in the negotiations, and insisted that “Nile water is a matter of life and an issue of existence for Egypt”. On his part, President Zewde made assurances of Ethiopia’s commitment to reaching a deal over GERD.

October

A tripartite technical committee finalized four-day talks in Khartoum, Sudan, and presented their final report on the outcomes to the three countries’ irrigation ministers. Soon after, a new round of meetings between the irrigation and water resources ministers kicked off in Khartoum.

The spokesperson of the ministries’ negotiations revealed that negotiations have reached a dead end due to the “intransigency” of the Ethiopian side. The United States then called on the three sides to “put forth good faith efforts to reach an agreement that preserves those rights, while simultaneously respecting each other’s Nile water equities.”

Nov 2019

Construction of GERD’s saddle dam now fully complete

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)’s saddle dam in Ethiopia is now fully complete, according to Engineer Girma Mengistu, the head of Civil Construction Inspection at the development.

While speaking to a local news outlet last week, Eng. Mengistu said that they had just finished building the upstream face of the saddle dam, with over 14 million cubic meters of concrete embankment, marking the completion of the entire saddle dam.

He added that the completed upstream face of the saddle dam, particularly the face slab, covers an area of more than 330,000 square meters and that this is a great breakthrough for the entire GERD project as workers can now shift their concentration from the saddle dam and focus on fast-tracking the execution of the main project.

An overview of the saddle dam

Excavation and clearing of the 5.2km saddle dam with an average height of about 50 meters started right after the commencement of the GERD project while construction of its face slab started back in 2009.

Mengistu mentioned that the foundation treatment had, before the completion of the face slab, accomplished to prevent any possible underground water leakage where more than 30,000 plastic diaphragms have also been laid underground as a precaution.

The saddle dam, constructed in an elevation of fewer than 600m will have a pivotal contribution towards generating the planned 15,760 GWh power from the GERD.

Negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia over the GERD project

This announcement comes amidst a new course of negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia tackling the main issue of filling the dam and the time period of the GERD’s operation.

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia insists on storage within a period of three years while on the other hand, the Arab Republic of Egypt is requesting a 7-year filing period.

Recently, the United States held talks with the two countries and Sudan, at the presence of the World Bank. The dialog is still in progress and will take about 60 days.

March 2020

Construction of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam now 71% complete

Construction of Ethiopia’s US $5bn Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) is now 71% complete according to Belachew Kasa, Project Deputy Director. The project which started in 2011 has faced various challenges including the regional dispute over the flow of the river Nile, delays, and also cancellation of the initial contract with METEC which is run by the Ethiopian Military.

However Mr. Kasa noted that the project has gained momentum over the last few months with steelworks currently at 35% complete, civil works are 87% complete while electro-mechanical works are 17% complete. “We hope to start filling water to the reservoir by June,” said Mr. Kasa.

Once complete, GERD will produce 6000MW of electricity using 30 turbines that will be installed. Kasa noted that the section where the turbines will sit is yet to be finished and it requires 200 million rolls of concrete slabs to raise the final height.

In June once the reservoir is filled with water the giant tubes will deliver water through turbines 9 and 10 which will be propelled by a powerful water jet that will then ignite the hydro-power engines to produce electricity.

Meeting Ethiopia’s power needs

The power produced is expected to satisfy Ethiopia’s power needs as well as export the surplus to countries in Southern Africa and Western Europe. The Ethiopian government says the project is key for its economic development goals while on the other side Egypt fears the dam will affect the natural flow of the River Nile which it also hugely depends on. However, the two countries are meeting to resolve the dispute after the United States of America stepped in for mediation talks.

April 2020

Hopes alive to restart Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) talks

The Grand Renaissance dam in Ethiopia

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdouk expressed his determination to reignite trilateral talks between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over the contentious Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which is currently under construction on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia.

Recently during a phone conversation with the US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchen who was appointed to facilitate discussions between the deadlocked nations, Hamdok stated he would soon visit Cairo and Addis Ababa to “urge the two parties to resume negotiations on the Renaissance Dam and complete the remaining important outstanding issues”.

Hamdok and Mnuchin agreed that “the issue of the Renaissance Dam is very urgent and should continue to be negotiated as soon as the world has overcome the Corona pandemic disaster”.

Hamdok’s pledge comes merely a month after Ethiopia’s absence from talks in Washington DC to agree on terms over its US$4.8b project, citing a need for more time to consult relevant stakeholders. The country had previously accused the U.S. of overstepping beyond its role as an observer.

The beginning of the differences between the three countries over the GERD

The differences between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia dates back to May 2011 when Ethiopia started building the dam. Egypt voiced its concern over the GERD saying it will essentially give Ethiopia a button to control the Nile River. Recently, the former has also argued that the current proposals for timescales to fill the dam are too rapid and could interfere with its share of 55.5 billion cubic meters of water leaving the country with insufficient water for domestic and commercial use for decades

As a result, Egypt is calling for an extension of the amount of time required to fill the dam, something Ethiopia is seriously against due to incoming pressure from stakeholders and the public to achieve its production target.

Jul 2020

Sudan hands over its final report on GERD to AU

Sudan has handed over its final report on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) Negotiations between Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia to the African Union (AU). The final report includes Sudan’s assessment of the round of negotiations which started on July 3rd and ended on July 13th and the limited progress in the pending issues.

Draft balanced and fair agreement

Sudan has also, attached to its report a draft balanced and fair agreement that is suitable to be the basis for a comprehensive and acceptable agreement between the three countries, and it is an update of the draft agreement that Sudan had presented to the parties at the end of the previous negotiating round that took place under the umbrella of the initiative of the Prime Minister Dr. Abdullah Hamdouk.

South Africa President and the Chairman of the current AU session Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to call for a summit including the Heads of State of the African Bureau and heads of state and government of the three countries to consider the next step.

Construction of the Dam has created as much controversy as it has anticipation given the impact it will have on the region. On the one hand, there is the control it will give Ethiopia over the Nile waters to the chagrin of Egypt and the benefit it will bring to neighboring countries in terms of control of perennial flood waters and power generation.

2020 – Conflict moves to African Union

In July, the conflict over the commencement of the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) moved to the African Union (AU) for resolution after Ethiopia strongly opposed arbitration by the United Nations Security Council during a video conference on June 29.

Egypt took the matter to the UN Security Council, but Ethiopia with the support of South Africa (the African Union chair) lobbied for the issue to be first handled by the continental body.

During the same month, the Chairperson of the African Union and President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed the resumption of trilateral talks between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan on the controversial Grand Renaissance Dam Project and appealed to the involved parties to find solutions and reach an amicable agreement.

Ethiopia acknowledges the water levels behind the giant dam are increasing and filling has begun, though according to Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s water minister, the GERD water filling is in line with the dam’s natural construction process. He further added that the inflow into the reservoir due to heavy rainfall and runoff exceeded the outflow and created natural pooling. This continues until overflow is triggered soon.

Ethiopia’s Office of the Prime Minister announces that the first round of filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is completed, and hinted that it will start generating electricity in a few months.

In August, Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia concluded a new round of talks without reaching a consensus on a draft deal to be presented to the African Union (AU) regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

According to Sudan’s Irrigation and Water Resources Ministry, the three countries agreed to conclude the current round of talks without consensus on the draft integrated deal which was supposed to be submitted to the AU on Friday. “Continuation of the talks in their current form will not lead to achieving practical results,” said Yasir Abbas.

Elsewhere, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo approved a plan to halt U.S. foreign assistance to Ethiopia as the US government attempts to mediate a dispute with Egypt and Sudan over the construction GERD.

The decision could affect up to nearly US $130m in U.S. foreign assistance to Ethiopia and fuel new tensions in the relationship between Washington and Addis Ababa as Ethiopia carries out plans to fill the dam.

In October, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Dr. Seleshi Bekele, announced that Ethiopia is set to start generating electricity from the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) over the coming 12 months. According to the minister, the Performance of the project increased by 2.5% to 76.35% in the first quarter owing to efforts made to enable the dam to start generating power with two turbines this Ethiopian fiscal year (2020/21). The minister added that construction works at the dam are now at 76.35%. Ethiopian authorities recently banned all flights over the GERD “for security reasons”.

In Early November, Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia resumed talks. The week-long negotiations held via videoconference included: water ministers from the three countries, as well as representatives from the African Union, the European Union, and the World Bank.

Feb 2021

Largest hydropower project in Africa, GERD to be fully operational by 2023

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

The largest hydropower project in Africa, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is set to be operational by 2023 as per the reschedule. According to Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy Eng. Seleshi Bekele, following the successful completion of the first round filling, the second filling is going to be held during the coming rainy season-on July 2021.

According to the minister, the construction of GERD has reached 78.3% and it is expected to be completed up to 82% until the upcoming rainy season. “Ethiopia is keenly working on completing the construction of GERD by 2023 and considering the dam as a water security threat is unfounded and unscientific.

The overall construction of the dam has seen rapid development following the swift measures taken by the reformist administration to ensure professionalism. The administrative adjustments have solved the most critical problems related to decision making and follow-up system,” he said.

He further added that the new administration and the board jointly with the Ministry and Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) have solved the factors that led to the delay of the construction before the reform in 2018. Solving the major problems, undertaking continuous follow-up, assessment and evaluation have enabled the country to return the process of the construction of the massive power plant on the right track.

Most secure and safe dam project on the Nile

The minister further affirmed that GERD is the most secure and safe dam of all projects that have been built on the Nile River.

“For me, GERD is being constructed with modern and sound technology, latest materials, and precision. In addition, GERD is a water bank for the downstream countries. The problem with these countries is neither a technical issue nor fear of water shortage but a misconception of considering Ethiopia’s development as a threat. However, GERD is the most helpful project for them by any criteria,” said Eng. Bekele.

During the same period, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy published a new satellite image of the construction progress at its controversial large dam on the Blue Nile River. The image clearly showed that the dam’s reservoir has a stable water level, which has reached the level of the concrete wall.

In early March, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Sudanese counterpart Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi stressed that Ethiopia’s possible second phase filling of the Nile dam unilaterally would pose a direct threat to the water security of Egypt and Sudan.

The two ministers highlighted the importance of reaching a binding legal agreement on filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that would achieve the interests of the three countries, preserve the water rights of Egypt and Sudan, and limit the damages of the project to the two downstream countries.

Shoukry and his Sudanese counterpart also stressed that they have the political will and a serious desire to achieve this goal at the earliest possible opportunity, urging Ethiopia to show goodwill and engage in an effective negotiation process.

The two ministers also affirmed that their countries have adhered to the proposal made by Sudan and supported by Egypt on developing the negotiation mechanism sponsored by the African Union through the formation of an international quartet led and managed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the current chair of the African Union.

They also expressed appreciation for the efforts made by South Africa during its presidency of the African Union in guiding the path of the GERD negotiations.

In Mid-March, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and his counterpart of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Felix Tshisekedi discussed the Nile dam dispute between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia over the phone.

During the conversation, Sisi reiterated Egypt’s position that calls for reaching a legally binding agreement on the rules of filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) before the next rainy season, in order to preserve the water rights of the downstream countries. Sisi also affirmed Egypt’s support for the Sudanese proposal to form an international quartet under the chairmanship of the African Union to mediate the Nile dam dispute.

Around the same period, Sudan submitted a formal request, for quadripartite international mediation to resolve the dispute with Ethiopia over the dam. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdouk sent letters to the US, the European Union (EU), the African Union (AU), and the United Nations (UN), asking them to mediate in negotiations. It is hoped that their involvement will help reach a solution for the dispute overfilling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

In late March, the Sudanese information minister announced that Sudan’s cabinet has backed an initiative for the United Arab Emirates to mediate in a dispute over Sudan’s border with Ethiopia, and over GERD.

Tensions surrounding the control of farmland in al-Fashqa, on the border, have escalated in recent months, while talks over the operation of the GERD, which will affect water volume downstream in the Sudanese portion of the Blue Nile, are deadlocked.

In early April, it was reported that a new round of African Union-mediated talks between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan had begun. The three-day talks that kicked off on the 3rd were taking place in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the current chair of the AU. According to Ethiopia’s Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele, Foreign and irrigation ministers of the three nations were attending the talks, along with AU experts.

After the 4th day of negotiations, the talks seemed to have broken down. This is after Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Ethiopia had a “lack of political will to negotiate in good faith.” To further complicate proceedings, a Congolese mediator said that Sudan had objected to the terms of a draft communique. The country felt that its interests in the River Nile were under threat.

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: Construction of 2 bottom outlets done

Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Sileshi Bekele has disclosed through his Twitter handle that the construction of two bottom outlets (BO) of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been completed. Minister Bekele added that the BOs, which will provide the release of water downstream, have also been tested and they are operational.

The 2 BOs according to the Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy, have the capacity of passing the entire annual Abbay flow in a year. This he said is an assurance of the flow of water downstream without disruptions. Other 13 such outlets are under construction adding a huge capacity of downstream release.

Also Read: First drilling for Tulu Moye geothermal project in Ethiopia complete

Minister Bekele explained that “in the rainy season these BO’s guarantee downstream flow while filling takes place as inflow exceeding outflow at the reservoir.”

Egypt says Ethiopian statement that the BO’s can enable the average flow of Blue Nile is incorrect

A day after the Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy made the announcement about the two BOs, the Egyptian ministry said that the claims were “incorrect” explaining that the maximum flow of the two BOs is estimated at 3 billion m3 per month and that does not exceed 50 million m3 / day.

“This amount of water thus does not meet the needs of the two downstream countries (Egypt and Sudan) and it is with no doubt not equivalent to the average of water release coming from the Blue Nile,” said the ministry.

In its statement, Egypt also added that the second filling process due to unilaterally implemented in mid-July by Ethiopia and seizing a large amount of water which will largely affect the Nile river system, and that the situation will be more complicated starting from the flood season (Next July) as the BOs will release an amount lower than usual in July and August.

Later, Ethiopia announced that it would continue filling the dam’s massive reservoir during the upcoming rainy season, which normally begins in June or July; sparking new warnings from downstream countries Sudan and Egypt, which are worried about their water supply.

Sudan’s irrigation minister warned that his country stood ready to harden its stance in the dispute and lobby afresh at the highest international levels including the UN Security Council, while the Egyptian president warned Ethiopia over touching a drop of Egypt’s water because all options are open.

Later that week, reports emerged that Sudan had received an Ethiopian offer to share details on the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in an attempt to ease Sudanese, regional and international pressure on Addis Ababa.

In mid-April, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will proceed as planned for July/August.

“Ethiopia, in developing Abbay (Blue Nile) River for its needs, has no intention of causing harm to lower riparian countries. Heavy rains last year enabled successful first filling of the GERD while the presence of the GERD itself has undoubtedly prevented severe flooding in neighboring Sudan,” said the PM.

“Ahead of the second filling, Ethiopia is releasing more water from last year’s storage through newly completed outlets & sharing information. The next filling takes place only during heavy rainfall months of July/August, ensuring benefits in reducing floods in Sudan,” he added.

In early May, Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said that legal teams in Sudan are willing to sue the Ethiopian government over the Grand Renaissance Dam Project if they started the second filling unilaterally

The Sudanese Minister of Irrigation added, that several visits to African countries will be conducted during the coming period in order to explain Sudan’s position on resolving the Renaissance Dam issue. He also affirmed that his country is still adhering to resolving the issue through negotiations to protect water security interests.

In mid-May, the USA affirmed its commitment to working with international partners to find a solution to the differences between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, said in a statement at the end of his visit to Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, that he discussed with leaders in Addis Ababa, Cairo, and Khartoum “Egypt and Sudan’s concerns over water security, and how the safety and operation of the dam can be reconciled with Ethiopia’s development needs through substantive and results-oriented negotiations among the parties under the leadership of the African Union, which must resume urgently,” read the statement.

“We believe that the 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the parties and the July 2020 statement by the AU Bureau are important foundations for these negotiations, and the United States is committed to providing political and technical support to facilitate a successful outcome,” the media note of the US Department of State added.

In late May, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced that Egypt has already taken precautionary measures to mitigate the potential impacts of the second filing of the GERD. Both Egypt and Sudan seek to form an international quartet that includes the African Union (AU), the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations to mediate in reaching the desired agreement.

In mid-June, Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Antti said that Egypt is keen to resume the tripartite negotiations with Sudan and Ethiopia to reach a just and binding legal agreement for all three Nile countries, with preserving their water shares when it comes to the rules of operations and filling the controversial GERD.

Abdel-Atti added that the current negotiations track under the auspices of the African Union will not lead to significant progress, clarifying that Egypt and Sudan asked for forming an international quartet led by the Democratic Republic of Congo that currently chairs the AU, United States, the European Union, and the United Nations.

The Irrigation Minister affirmed that Egypt and Sudan will not accept any unilateral action of filling and operating the Ethiopian dam.

In mid-June, Ethiopia rejected an Arab League resolution calling on the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the lingering Grand Renaissance Dam Project dispute. Foreign ministers of the 22-member bloc met in the Qatari capital Doha in the latest effort by Cairo and Khartoum to reach an agreement on the filling of the GERD.

“The Arab League of States should know that utilization of the Nile waters is also an existential matter for Ethiopia,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “It is about lifting millions of its people out of abject poverty and meeting their energy, water, and food security needs. Ethiopia is exercising its legitimate right to use its water resources in full respect of international law and the principle of causing no significant harm,” it added.

In late June Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that Egypt seeks to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as the international community is aware of the great danger it poses on downstream countries.

In early July, Egypt’s minister of water resources and irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Aty accused Ethiopia of intransigence over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The minister was representing his ministry while addressing a conference organized by the German government.

“Egypt is one of the driest countries in the world and suffers from water scarcity; Egypt’s water resources are estimated at 60 billion cubic meters annually, most of which comes from the waters of the River Nile, in addition to very limited amounts of rainwater, estimated at 1 billion cubic meters, and deep, non-renewable groundwater in the deserts,” he said.

Around the same time, Egypt through the Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the UN Security Council to highlight developments in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute. The letter written by Foreign minister Sameh Shoukry emphasized the country’s objection to Ethiopia’s intention to continue filling the dam during the upcoming flood season. It also expressed the government’s rejection of Ethiopia seeking to impose a fait accompli on the downstream countries through unilateral measures.

Egypt and Sudan have drafted a resolution about the dam to be presented to Arab foreign ministers.

In mid-July, a United Nations Security Council meeting was held on the failed Grand Renaissance Dam Project negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. At the meeting, the Sudanese Foreign Minister clearly documented the damage that occurred to Sudan due to the unilateral filling of the Renaissance Dam in 2020.

Later, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry praised the Sudanese Foreign Minister’s speech and added that a draft resolution was submitted by Tunisia that contained elements sought after by both Egypt and Sudan, including a stronger role for observers in negotiations and allowing the council to provide proposals and solutions on the issue.

Around the same time, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the trilateral negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan have been underway to reach an outcome on the first filling and annual operation of the GERD, as per the Declaration of Principles.

“It is regrettable, however, to witness that the progress of the negotiations has been dragged and politicized. Ethiopia has made its position clear time and again that this is unproductive and bringing the subject matter to the United Nations Security Council was and is unhelpful and far from the mandate of the Council,” he said.

“It is recognized that the AU-led process is an important vehicle to address each party’s concerns and they have been able to reach understanding on a considerable number of issues through this setting. Furthermore, the process has also revealed the longstanding challenges which have to do with the absence of water treaty and basin-wide mechanism on the Nile,” said the minister.

“Ethiopia is committed to bringing the AU-led trilateral process to a successful conclusion aiming to reach a mutually acceptable outcome. It is prepared and ready to work on the phased approach proposed by the Chairperson of the African Union, and, therefore, encourages both Egypt and Sudan to negotiate in good faith to bring the process to fruition,” he added.

In late July, Ethiopia announced that it had completed filling the reservoir of the GERD for a second year and the plant may start generating power in the next few months. According to Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s minister for water, irrigation, and energy, the second filling of the Renaissance dam has been completed and the water is overflowing. “The next milestone for GERD construction is to realize the early generation in the next few months,” he said.

Around the same time, Sudan’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, Yasir Abbas underlined the necessity for Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia to reach a legal and binding agreement. He further stressed that while the negotiation is the best solution to reach a binding legal agreement regarding the filling and operation of the GERD, Sudan is not ready to enter into negotiations with the same methodology as before, because it means buying time, and Sudan fully believes that the only solution in the file of the Renaissance Dam is through serious negotiation that preserves the interests of the three countries.

In late August, Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia met with Ambassadors of the member states of the United Nations Security Council and called on them to reject the draft resolution submitted by Tunisia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The DPM briefed the ambassadors on the status of the construction of the Renaissance Dam and the content of the draft resolution submitted to the Security Council by Tunisia. He said the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a development project and should not be considered by the Security Council.

He further added that it is inappropriate for Tunisia to refer back the resolution to the Council since it violates Ethiopia’s right to use its natural resources and maliciously tries to advance the unjust interests of the downstream countries.

He called on Sudan and Egypt to abandon the status quo and the so-called “historical right” over the Nile River basin and refrain from unnecessarily politicizing and internationalizing the matter.

November 2021

Dr. Sileshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s former Water and Irrigation minister, who was in October 2021 appointed as the chief negotiator and advisor on Trans Boundary Rivers and GERD, revealed that the overall construction progress of the dam had reached 82%.

January 2022

Ethiopia had reportedly completed preparation works and gearing up to begin testing hydropower generation at two units (with an estimated capacity of 700 MW) of the flagship 5.2-GW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

March 2022

Two turbines at the Grand  Renaissance Dam (GERD) start generating electricity soon

Barely two months after the announcement of the completion of the second filling of the Grand  Renaissance Dam (GERD) which is currently under construction in Ethiopia, it has been revealed that two turbines at the dam, formerly known as the Millennium Dam and sometimes referred to as Hidase Dam, will start generating electricity soon, in the first months of the Ethiopian New Year, to be precise.

Noteworthy, the new year of the Ethiopian calendar, which is similar to that used in many Eastern Orthodox churches and that has 13 months, starts on Meskerem 1, the 11th day of September on the Gregorian calendar.

This revelation was made by Dr. Sileshi Bekele, the East African country’s Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy. He said that the necessary preparations works which will enable the success of the operations of the said turbines are ongoing.

Once operational. the two turbines will generate a total of 750 megawatts which is approximately 11.63% of the entire project’s planned capacity.

Grand Renaissance Dam had no impact on this year’s floods in Sudan

Recently, a Sudanese official revealed that the GERD made no impact on this year’s floods in the North African country which is located downstream of the Nile and subsequently downstream of the dam.

The country, which together with its neighboring Republic of Egypt has spent years intense negotiations with Ethiopia over the US$ 5bn dam, said that the dam could have a positive effect on flooding in its territory during the rainy season, and hoped to benefit from electricity production.

It however complained of a lack of information from Ethiopia on the dam’s operation. Sudan and Egypt had demanded that Ethiopia hold off on the second round of filling the dam until a binding agreement was signed regulating its operation and mandating the sharing of data.

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