CAIRO – 24 May 2021: Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel Aty indicated in a TV interview Sunday that Ethiopia will open this year just two floodgates of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to release 50 million cubic meters, which are not sufficient to fulfill the water needs of Sudan alone.
The minister stated that during negotiations Egypt offered to pay for the costs of introducing two other floodgates but the proposal was turned down by the fellow Nile Basin country.
Abdel Aty added that Egypt presented 15 solutions to mitigate the negative impact on both downstream countries while achieving the interests of Ethiopia in electricity generation, and carried out several simulations. "However, the intransigence of Ethiopia is the outcome of the lack of a political willpower and internal problems," the minister noted.
Abdel Aty revealed that one of the solutions is guaranteeing that Ethiopia would generate 80 percent of the dam's maximum capacity of electricity in time of drought. "So why Ethiopia wants more guarantees than that?," the minister questioned saying the fellow African country does not want a binding legal agreement in the first place. "If they had the willingness, they would have signed in Washington," he underscored.
The minister expressed doubts over Ethiopia's ability to generate electricity in August because the turbines are not ready for operation until now while the turbines are the most critical part of the process.
Abdel Aty showcased that the international community does not realize the risks of not reaching an agreement on the filling and operation of the dam. He pointed out that they would only feel the existence of a crisis when illegal migration rates soar.
The minister added that Egypt heading to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is not ruled out.
Abdel Aty described the filling of the dam without agreement as an artificial drought given that filling the reservoir of the High Dam in time of flood is key to avert calamity during drought years. "If it were not for the water in the High Dam's reservoir, Egypt would suffer greatly in 2015 and 2016 when drought cut Egypt's water share by 20 billion cubic meters per annum (out of 55.5 billion cubic meters)," the minister highlighted.
The minister unveiled that water reserves in the High Dam were reinforced over the past years to render Egypt susceptible to the shock of the Ethiopian dam's filling.
Abdel Aty pointed out that in spite of the tour made by each of the African Union chair and the U.S. special envoy to the Horn of Africa in the three countries, the negotiations are still stalled because Ethiopia does not want to resume talks. He added that neither of them presented any proposals either; hence, there is no new base on which the three states can become responsive.
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].
Three years later, a series of tripartite talks between the two countries along with Sudan began to reach an agreement, while Ethiopia continued the dam construction.
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.
In October 2019, Egypt blamed Addis Ababa for hindering a final agreement concerning a technical problem, calling for activating Article No. 10 of the Declaration of Principles, which stipulates that if the three countries could not find a solution to these disputes, they have to ask for mediation.
Washington had brokered tripartite negotiations among the three countries, in the presence of the President of the World Bank (WB) starting from November 6, 2019 until February 27 and 28, 2020.
During these rounds of talks, tangible outcomes were agreed on among the three parties concerning the rules and mechanism of operating the dam and the filling process of the reservoir during the drought and prolonged drought; however, an agreement was not sealed.
Constructions in the Grand Renaissance Dam started on April 2, 2011 at a cost of $4.8 billion. It was built by the Italian construction and engineering company Salini Impergilo. The Italian company is headquartered in Milan. The dam is located on the Blue Nile with a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters, and is expected to generate up to 6,000 megawatts of power.
The first filling was carried out in 2020 with 4.9 billion cubic meters. Currently, Ethiopia intends to do the second filling in July with at least 13.5 billion cubic meters.