A general view shows construction activity on the Grand Renaissance dam in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz region in this March 16, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/Files
CAIRO – 3 August 2018: Ethiopia has not yet started filling the reservoir of the under-construction controversial Renaissance Dam (GERD) along the Blue Nile, said Egyptian Water Resources and Irrigation Moahmed Adel Atti during his inauguration of a number of water-related projects on Thursday in Daqahlia governorate (Delta).
“Ethiopia has not yet begun to fill the reservoir of the Renaissance dam […] Egypt will not accept that its [water] share of the Nile water could be affected,” he said.
Both countries along with Sudan have differences on the possible threats that the GERD could impose on the downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia started to build the GERD in 2011 following the January 25 Revolution in Egypt. Since then, Cairo expressed its concerns over affecting its 55.5 billion cubic meters of the Nile water share.
The Egyptian government says that Egypt has started bodybuilding the dam “without consultation” in accordance with international accords, while Addis Ababa replied that it is not binding to any international accords as Ethiopia was not a colonial country controlled by any international deals formulated by the British Colonization.
As per the two 1929 and 1959 deals conducted during British colonization, a total of 80 billion cubic meters of Nile water was allocated to Egypt (55.5 billion), and for Sudan (18.5 billion). They also granted Egypt the right of veto against any projects that could be established on Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan that may cause harm to its share, while the deal did not include Ethiopia among the deal countries.
The move of the construction of the dam led to a long diplomatic spat between both states. The African Horn state is in desperate need of the dam, as it suffers from staggering daily power outages.
Technical officials in the three countries opted to hire two French consultancy companies – BRL and Artelia – in September 2016, to study the possible impacts of the dam construction of Egypt and Sudan. However, the negotiations were brought to a halt in November 2017 as Ethiopia and Sudan objected to the companies’ preliminary report on the environmental impact of GERD.
In 2015, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia signed the Declaration of the Renaissance Dam Principles Charter that tackles the management of the dam with written guarantees, and states that the dam’s reservoir cannot be filled without the approval of Egypt and Sudan. In December 2017, Egypt demanded the intervention of the World Bank in the matter, a move that was rejected by Ethiopia. Unconfirmed reports said that Ethiopia seeks to start filling the GERD’s reservoir during the upcoming Nile flood season in July.
However, a breakthrough was recently witnessed in the ongoing series of discussions among three countries.