Ethiopia’s unilateral GERD actions harm Egypt and Sudan: Irrigation minister

Ahram Online , Friday 29 Oct 2021

Unilateral actions by Ethiopia in the absence of a fair and legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has harmed Egypt and Sudan, Egypt’s Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati said Friday.

caption : Minister of irrigation in his word via video conference on Friday in the Water Security in the Framework of Climate Change meeting on the sidelines of of the Climate Change Conference COP26 (Photo : Egypt s Irrigation Ministry)

In a speech via video conference to the “Water Security in the Framework of Climate Change” meeting ahead of the UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP26), the irrigation minister spoke about the latest developments in the GERD issue and its impact on both Egypt and Sudan.

The conference will take place in Glasgow, Scotland between 31 October – 12 November.

Egypt and Sudan have long demanded Ethiopia sign a fair and legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD, but the upstream country has refused. After African Union-sponsored talks between the three countries deadlocked in April, Ethiopia unilaterally commenced with the second filling of the dam in May.

“These unilateral decisions had an impact on the ecosystem and social system like in the case of Sudan,” Abdel-Ati said, referring to the impact caused by the first and second fillings in 2020 and 2021.

Egypt has already offered Ethiopia several alternatives to unilateral action, including a scenario that enables the dam to generate electricity up to 85 percent of its capacity even in cases of drought, the minister revealed.

He also added that a fair and legally binding agreement would allow for coordinating responses to climate change, mitigating its negative effects.

There have also been recent studies that raise several questions about the GERD’s safety, which are legitimate concerns for downstream countries, he said.

The irrigation minister stressed the importance of considering the transboundary dimension when developing shared waters, which requires coordination, consultation and information exchange to jointly manage resources through a legally binding agreement.

Transboundary waters are those shared by two or more countries, like the Nile River.

In his speech, Abdel-Ati said that Egypt was not against any development projects in the Nile Basin countries, giving examples of how Egypt has previously approved the construction of dams, including funding the Owen Falls reservoir in Uganda.

He also stated that Egypt did not object to the construction of several dams in Ethiopia like Tekeze, Sharashara and Tana dams.

At the same time, the minister emphasised the huge discrepancy in the volume of water resources between Egypt and upstream countries.

“Egypt depends on one river, the Nile, for 97% of its needs whereas upstream countries enjoy huge water abundance as the amount of rain that falls ranges from 1600-2000 billion cubic metres of water annually,” Abdel-Ati said, adding that other countries use rainwater to irrigate its crops and have other rivers than the Nile, like Ethiopia, which has 12 rivers.

On the other hand, Egypt is very water-scarce, with only 750 cubic metres per capita annually, an amount that is close to the water poverty line, he explained to the conference.

The irrigation minister revealed that Egypt has prepared a strategy for water resources through 2050 and developed a national plan for water resources through 2037 at a cost of up to $50 million, which is expected to increase to $100 billion.

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