Expert details updates, speculations on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam



Tue, 12 Apr 2022 - 04:32 GMT


Tue, 12 Apr 2022 - 04:32 GMT

FILE - Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)

FILE - Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)

CAIRO – 12 April 2022: On January 13, Ethiopia declared intention to begin removing 17,000 hectares of forests in February, which would take 60 days, to make possible conducting the third filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.    


On February 20, Ethiopia announced it would generate electricity from the dam for the first time through one turbine (out of planned 13), whose capacity is 350 megawatts.


Satellite images show that the amount of water in the reservoir has dropped from eight billion cubic meters to seven billion cubic meters over the past few weeks as 30 million cubic meters had to be released daily to operate the turbine.  


Professor of Geology and Water Resources at Cairo University Abbas Sharaky stated that more water will reach the dam starting May in tandem with the fall of light rains on the Ethiopian plateau. Hence, Ethiopia will need to release more water through the second gate, unless the wall is raised in the coming weeks, as reported by Sada El Balad.


The expert further clarified that the amount of water released through the turbine is very little as it does not work most of the time.  


As for the possibility of heightening the wall and initiating the construction works, Sharaky said that the middle corridor has been dried after opening the gates. Yet, satellites cannot show, at this stage, if the heightening has begun.  


The professor noted that Ethiopia has only three months before the heavy rain season begins, and that such duration is not sufficient to add significant height to the wall. Sharaky elaborated that such duration only allows for raising the middle corridor by 10 meters, which is not enough, given that the sides are higher by 25 meters.


The professor further explained that for the third filling to be carried out, both the middle corridor and the sides have to be heightened, which is hard to be done technically in three months. That is because such procedure requires adding 1.3 million cubic meters of mortar.  


If Ethiopia succeeds in doing this, it would fill two billion cubic meters in the reservoir and call it a third filling, the expert said underscoring that such step would be considered a unilateral action.


The first and second fillings were carried out in 2020 and 2021, respectively, making the total 8 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].


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 dam is located on the Blue Nile with a planned capacity of 74 billion cubic meters, and was expected to generate up to 6,000 megawatts of power.


However, it is estimated to generate only 3,000 megawatts, as the number of turbines to be installed has been reduced to 13 turbines down from 16.


Additional reporting by Noha El Tawil



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