Ethiopia’s unilateral GERD operation an ‘existential threat’ to all Egyptians: Irrigation minister

Ahram Online , Sunday 29 Oct 2023

Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hani Sewilam warned against Ethiopia’s continued unilateral operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile, saying it poses an “existential threat” to the more than 100 million people in Egypt.

An Ethiopian national flag is seen at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Guba, Ethiopia, on February 19, 2022. AFP


In his opening remarks at the inauguration of the sixth edition of the Cairo Water Week (CWW) on Sunday, Sewilam stressed that such unilateral acts on GERD violate international law, including the Declaration of Principles (DoP) signed between Addis Ababa, Cairo, and Khartoum in 2015.

The Ethiopian measures are also inconsistent with the presidential statement issued by the UN Security Council in 2021.

The sixth edition of the CWW is taking place through Thursday in the Egyptian capital under the theme: “Action on Water Adaptation for Sustainability.”

During the week-long proceedings, several high-level meetings will be held along with a series of regional workshops.

Egypt and Sudan have so far failed to secure a legally binding agreement with Ethiopia on the rules of the filling and operation of the dam after around a decade of ongoing negotiations.

Egypt said there has been no change in the Ethiopian stance during the recent three rounds of talks, which took place in Cairo and Addis Ababa over the past two months.

The GERD talks were revived late in August after more than two years of stalemate as Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed agreed in July to finalize a deal by the end of November.

Egypt and Sudan have long warned of the consequences of Ethiopia’s unilateral filling and operation of the dam on the two downstream countries’ water interests and people’s lives.

“For Egypt, the existence of effective cross-border water cooperation is an indispensable existential matter,” Sewilam said during the opening of the CWW.

“However, for this cooperation to be effective, water at the basin level must be jointly managed and the basin must be considered an integrated unit,” he added.

The minister warned that Egypt is among the most arid countries in the world, pointing out that it depends on the Nile for 98 percent of its water needs.

The per capita share of water in Egypt annually amounts to half the United Nations' water scarcity threshold, the minister said.

Also, Egypt suffers from a gap between available water resources, estimated at about 60 billion cubic metres, and water demand, estimated at 115 billion cubic metres, the minister said.

This gap is bridged by reusing 21 billion cubic metres annually and importing more than 34 billion cubic metres of virtual water, he added.

Also participating in the CWW, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stressed the importance of cross-border water cooperation and the danger to Egypt of failing to do so.

“Egypt, being the last downstream nation, is the most harmed country by any non-cooperative measures taken in the basin,” Shoukry said.

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