Ethiopia began the second filling of the reservoir behind its mega Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) earlier in May, a Sudanese official told Reuters on Tuesday, in a move that is expected to trigger further tensions with Egypt and Sudan over the lack of a sealed agreement before the filling.
A Sudanese irrigation ministry official told Reuters that further construction work on GERD had already allowed the second filling to begin, with the filling set to continue in July and August following seasonal rains.
There has been no immediate comment from Ethiopian authorities on the news about the second phase of the filling.
However, Ethiopia stressed earlier on Tuesday that it is committed to implement the second phase of the filling as planned over the summer despite an ongoing stalemate in negotiations with Egypt and Sudan.
It said it adheres to the African Union (AU) sponsored GERD negotiations and is expecting an invitation to the three countries to resume the talks on the outstanding issues.
Ethiopia plans to hold 13.5 billion cubic metres of water during the second filling in the GERD reservoir in July, according to press statements by Egypt’s irrigation minister, despite the objections of downstream countries Egypt and Sudan over the move in the absence of a legally binding instrument.
Ethiopia’s rejection of several proposals by Egypt and Sudan on the negotiation mechanism, which includes international quartet mediation, has led to the collapse of the Kinshasa talks sponsored by the African Union in April.
The three countries have resorted to diplomacy in the past weeks, briefing regional and international counterparts on their stances and developments on the latest deadlock in negotiations.
Egypt has warned that the second filling will lead to tensions in the region and a quarreling relation and will cause instability in East African and the Horn of Africa.
Egypt’s 100 million-plus population depends on the Nile for over 95 percent of its fresh water.
Sudan fears the GERD will put the operation of its Roseires dam and the lives of 20 million Sudanese citizens at “a very high risk” if an agreement regulating the operation and filling of GERD is not reached before the second filling.
It warned that it will take legal action if Ethiopia moved forward with the second filling of the GERD in July without first signing a legally binding agreement.
Egypt fears that the massive $4.8 billion Ethiopian hydropower project will significantly diminish its crucial water supply, which is already below scarcity level.