Ethiopia completes 3rd GERD filling unilaterally

Amr Kandil , Friday 12 Aug 2022

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on Friday completing the third phase of filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s (GERD) reservoir, saying “from the beginning that we did not want to make the river our own.”

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announces complete of third filling of GERD. Abiy Ahmed Twitter
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announces complete of third filling of GERD - 12 August 2022. Abiy Ahmed Twitter



“Compared to last year, we have reached 600 metres, which is 25 metres higher than the previous filling,” Ahmed said in images shown on state TV from the dam site in western Ethiopia.

Egypt and Sudan have reiterated their rejection of the unilateral Ethiopian acts regarding the $4.2 billion GERD, including filling its 74-billion-cubic-metre reservoir and operating the dam turbines without their consent.

African Union-sponsored talks to find a solution to the GERD dispute between the three countries have been stalled since April last year with Egypt and Sudan blaming failure of talks on the upper stream country’s “intransigence.”

The two downstream countries repeatedly reaffirmed their support for Ethiopia’s right to development, but called on Addis Ababa to sign a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam that would secure their water rights and their peoples’ interests.

Ethiopia has brushed away the two countries’ call for an agreement and has implemented the dam filling for three consecutive years despite Egypt and Sudan’s diplomatic steps  in opposition, including sending letters of objection to the UN Security Council.

Addis Ababa also announced on Thursday that they had begun operating the GERD’s second electric power turbine, a step that Egypt and Sudan earlier described as a “breach of Ethiopia’s international commitments” when Ethiopia started operating the dam’s first turbine in February.

Currently, the two turbines, out of a total of 13, have a capacity to generate 750 MW of electricity, according to the AFP. The dam is ultimately expected to produce over 5,000 MW, more than doubling Ethiopia’s current output.

“When we set out to build a dam on the Nile, we said from the beginning that we did not want to make the river our own,” Ahmed wrote on Twitter today.

Ahmed highlighted so-called “gifts” of the dam, claiming that Ethiopia “will use the river in [Egypt and Sudan’s] respective ways.”

“It allows us to live in harmony. It is known that as the dam prevents sedimentation, it will reduce the amount of wealth and human lives lost in downstream countries due to floods,” Ahmed claimed.

He added that GERD would connect the three countries just as the Nile River, on which the dam is built, has connected them four thousands of years.

“We stood up with the truth, built [the dam] with our own truth, according to our word, without harming anyone,” Ahmed asserted.

Ahmed claimed on Thursday that Ethiopia is keen to resume the AU-sponsored talks between the three countries, saying “any other option will not stop what we have started and will be futile.”

Abbas Sharaky, a professor of geology and water resources at Cairo University, believes that Ethiopia has made the GERD a “water bomb” after increasing its capacity to 74 bcm from the initial 11.1 bcm initially planned.

The unstable geologic conditions surrounding the dam means that it endangers the lives of more than 20 million Sudanese people living on the banks of the Blue Nile.

According to Sharaky on Thursday, Ethiopia managed to retain nine bcm in the third filling, raising the total volume of water stored in the dam's reservoir to around 17 bcm at a height of 600 metres, he added.

During the launch of the second electric power turbine of the GERD on Thursday, the Ethiopian prime minister, however, said the third filling has been able to hold about 22 bcm of water.

Egypt, which relies mainly on the Nile for its water needs, fears that the unilateral and quick filling and operation of the GERD will have a negative impact on the country's water supply. Meanwhile, Sudan is concerned about regulating water flows to its own dams.

Late in July, Egypt resorted to the Security Council for the third consecutive year, sending a letter protesting against the unilateral third filling.

Egypt stressed in the letter that the step is “a clear violation of the Declaration of Principles – signed by the three nations in 2015 – and the applicable rules of international law" that obliges Ethiopia, as an upstream country, not to harm the rights of downstream countries.

Egypt, which is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, receives around 60 bcm annually – mainly from the Nile – while its needs stand at around 114 bcm, placing the over 100-million-person country well below the international threshold for water scarcity, at 560 cubic metres per person annually.

In its letter to the Security Council, Egypt held Ethiopia "fully responsibility for any significant harm to Egyptian interests that may result from Addis Ababa’s violation of its aforementioned obligations."

Egypt will not tolerate any prejudice to its rights or water security or any threat to the capabilities of the Egyptian people, for whom the Nile River represents the only lifeline, the letter added.

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