Egypt's irrigation minister clarifies status of Ethiopian Dam crisis



Mon, 12 Apr 2021 - 05:48 GMT


Mon, 12 Apr 2021 - 05:48 GMT

FILE - Satellite image of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

FILE - Satellite image of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

CAIRO – 12 April 2021: Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel Aty gave Saturday a TV interview to Amr Adib, who hosts Al Hekaya show on MBC Masr, to clarify the status of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) crisis. Here are the most significant quotes:


Data exchange is a step that follows reaching an agreement. We have not reached an agreement to exchange data. We're actually following all data on the dam filling and have more data than Ethiopia has…Such data is easy to acquire.


We have reached agreements several times. The last of which was in Washington [in 2020]. So if they have good intentions, we shall all make the agreement go into force right away, and then, exchange data and experience, and work together.


The state is not waiting for a damage to occur. We've been preparing ourselves for five years. The damage can occur because of unilateral acts, and it can be expected to happen on the long-run.


If drought occurs while dams are empty, a severe damage will occur. If there is no agreement on how to carry out filling in time of drought, harm will happen. That would be a shock. Drought, flooding, and torrents are considered shocks. The state manages to absorb such shocks by introducing the necessary infrastructure.


We built rainwater harvest dams and wastewater treatment plants, lined canals, rationalized water use, introduced smart and modern irrigation systems, explored and managed underground water.


We reduced surface areas cultivated with rice, sugar cane, and bananas due to their consumption of large amounts of water. We always measure the system's ability to sustain shocks. The ability to hold out is pertinent to technical, political, and other aspects.


We will absorb the shock of the second filling. There are several scenarios. One is filling in time of drought. Another is filling in time of medium flood. A third is filling in time of high flood.


In the last two scenarios, there shall not be a problem. There would be a problem in case of the first scenario but we have got prepared… We measure rain every month to figure out possible scenarios.


The chance that Ethiopia will do the second filling is high in order to cover up for internal problems. Nevertheless, it is possible Ethiopia will not benefit from the second filling the same as the case of the first filling.


If there is a minor mistake in operating turbines, the turbines will have to be removed and reinstalled. That is possible given that pilot operation always shows mistakes.


International parties may mediate to broker an agreement…However, everyone of us shall do their part. Citizens shall rationalize water use. Workers in the irrigation sector shall continue water projects. Politicians shall work to take political measures and preserve our legal rights.


Last year, Sudan found dirt in the water and when it asked Ethiopia about it, Ethiopia negated it knew anything. The truth is that it released water from the dam without notifying Sudan, and that water had dirt.


War is a big word but we cannot neutralize it. However, it must be preceded by so many steps. Those begin with negotiations. If they fail, we resort to regional and international entities. There are different tools.


War is a difficult decision and we must work on not having to make it.


In Kinshasa talks, Ethiopia wanted to discuss the negotiation mechanism and the role of international observers but we are over this phase. If there was a political willpower, agreeing on dam operation and filling would take only a couple of hours.


It's not acceptable to waste our time on negotiations that are aimless.


We make the suitable decision in the suitable time [not under popular pressure].


The proof is that the ministry is working hard is that people have been complaining less from water shortage, although the population size increased by 25 million over the past decade… In 2015, 5,000 complaints were recorded. In 2020, 1,000 complaints were made.


The repercussions of the second filling are not instant. They are long-term. That is because we will be consuming water reserved [in the High Dam] so if the level becomes very low over the years because of drought, and they refuse to release water [from the Renaissance Dam], there will be a problem.


We carried out many computerized simulations changing different variables, and we came up with almost 15 solutions that would achieve Ethiopian goals without harming us.


Our main concern is drought as it usually continues for five years on average like the one that happened in the 1980s. It may happen after 30 years and not in the near future at all but still we need an agreement now to secure next generations. Ethiopia rejects that, and wants us to examine what to do when drought actually happens.


What made Sudan more eager to reach a legal binding agreement are drought, flooding, and dirt increase in Nile River water that occurred in 2020.


Ethiopian negotiators used to change the figures they say during talks labeling that as "a slip of mouth." That's why we would only be assured when a legal binding agreement is reached.


Ethiopia refused to show us the second-stage designs, which means the structure of the dam has flaws it wants to hide. Flaws mean to us risk of collapse. In order to mitigate that risk, we have to build a barrage near the High Dam, and dams at Toshki to hold the water that would otherwise flood Egypt. We will definitely implement such safety projects. Those will cost LE20 billion.


The state will not allow the occurrence of a water crisis in Egypt.


It's in the interest of Ethiopia to reach a solution through negotiations the same as it is in our interest. It's also in the interest of the whole world.


If our water share declines by just one billion cubic meters, 200,000 feddans (one feddan is equal to 4,200 square meters) will be afflicted. As small land owners are prevalent in Egypt, 200,000 families will be affected. As the average size of an Egyptian family is five members, one million citizens will be harmed.


We have 40 million rural citizens whose only source of income is agriculture. If they lose it, they would either cause internal problems, get brainwashed and turn into terrorists who would target Ethiopia, or head to Europe as illegal migrants. Now, Egypt has succeeded to stop illegal migration but if the attempt is made by millions of citizens, how would it control it?




In mid-July 2020, Ethiopian authorities unilaterally carried out the first phase of the filling process with 4.9 billion cubic meters; and it is expected – as reported by the BBC- that the second phase of the filling would reach 13 billion cubic meters.


The dispute among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia dates back to May 2011 when Ethiopia started building the dam; Egypt voiced concern over its water share [55.5 billion cubic meters].


In 2015, the three countries signed the Declaration of Principles, per which the downstream countries should not be negatively affected by the construction of the dam, whose capacity is 74 billion cubic meters and is planned to generate 6,000 megawatts per annum through 16 turbines.



Leave a Comment

Be Social