Egypt expects above-average Nile flood amid GERD crisis

Amr Mohamed Kandil, Tuesday 1 Sep 2020

Last year saw the strongest flooding in 50 years, reportedly without causing any damage

A general view shows the River Nile with houses and farmland in Cairo, Egypt November 6, 2019. REUTERS

The Egyptian irrigation ministry expects the Nile flood to be higher than average this year due to rain adding to the Blue Nile’s flow, but noted it is still too early to confirm the extent of the flooding.

The comments came during a meeting of the committee for regulating the flow of the Nile, headed by Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty.

As Egypt last year witnessed the strongest flooding in 50 years, according to an earlier statement by the ministry, without reported harm, it is likely that the expected increase in this year’s flood will be good news.

The news comes as Egypt is embroiled in a long-standing dispute with Ethiopia over the massive dam it is building on the Blue Nile, which Cairo worries could cut its water supply.

Addis Ababa completed the first filling of the dam’s reservoir, which has a capacity of 74 billion cubic metres, earlier this summer, retaining 4.9 billion cubic metres of water.

In addition, flooding in Sudan in recent weeks has killed dozens of people and destroyed more than 35,000 houses.

The average level of the Blue Nile has reached 17.43 metres, the highest since the country started measuring in 1912, Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said last week.

The Nile flood takes place in August, September and October, caused by heavy rain in the Ethiopian highlands.

The rate of rainfall is growing, the Egyptian ministry said in its Monday statement, adding that a final confirmation of the extent of the floods can only be given in September and October.

The ministry referenced floods in Khartoum and the increased water level, saying it coordinates and exchanges information with the Sudanese irrigation ministry and carries out joint water level measurements.

Abdel Aty ordered officials to continue removing illegal structures on waterways, especially those on the Nile, as such encroachments limit the capability of the water networks to contain excess water in the times of emergency and flooding.

GERD filling

Ethiopia started filling the reservoir of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in July despite the lack of a legal binding agreement with the downstream countries Sudan and Egypt.

Egypt and Sudan hope to secure a legal agreement with Ethiopia to secure their water shares during periods of drought.

Abdel Aty also warned in July warned that Sudan would be totally destroyed if the mega-dam collapses.

Egyptian irrigation ministry spokesman Mohamed El-Sebaie expects the first filling of the reservoir not to harm Egypt this year, thanks to water reserves at Lake Nasser.

The filling “will not affect [Egypt] this year… because we have taken [water] from the reserves of Lake Nasser that had been saved over the past years," El-Sebaie said.

He said plans adopted by Egypt to reduce water consumption have helped increase reserves in Lake Nasser, which can be used in case of drought.

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