Sudan said it has hoarded around 600 million cubic metres of water at the reservoir of its Jebal Aulia Dam against a possible “unilateral measure” by Ethiopia to begin the second filling at its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in July.
According to state-owned SUNA news agency, the Sudanese irrigation ministry’s reservoir department said on Saturday that it stored the announced capacity by the end of the discharge period of the reservoir.
“This [procedure] is to ensure continued operations of the pumping stations along the White Nile and the Blue Nile to meet drinking water and agriculture needs against a possible unilateral measure by Ethiopia to begin the second filling of GERD,” the statement said.
The move by Sudan was made in accordance to technical studies focused on altering the reservoir operations policy this year to face the impact of the dam, the Head of the Irrigation Ministry’s Reservoir Department Moatasem El-Awad said.
He added that the discharge of the Jebal Aulia Dam was delayed to 1st April instead of 21st March, while storing 600 million cubic meters to avoid any shortage that could affect pumping stations at the White Nile and the Blue Nile.
The announcement by Sudan comes hours after Ethiopia asked Egypt and Sudan to nominate operators for data exchange over the disputed dam’s planned filling over the summer.
The Ethiopian request came days after the latest round of Kinshasa talks held between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in an attempt to re-launch deadlocked negotiations over the dam failed to reach an agreement.
Ethiopia’s rejection of several proposals by Egypt and Sudan on the negotiations' mechanism has led to a collapse of meetings and failure to reach an agreement over relaunching the talks.
Both downstream countries have signaled - after the collapse of the talks - that they were heading to the UN Security Council to brief it on the developments of the dam dispute.
Egypt and Sudan support reaching a legally binding agreement on the filling and operating of the dam to resolve the GERD dispute. Ethiopia has repeatedly rejected signing any such agreement.
It plans to move forward with a second filling of the dam — set to take place in July — despite the objections of Egypt and Sudan to the execution of such a move in the absence of a legally binding deal.
The second filling aims at collecting around 18.4 bcm of Blue Nile water, up from the 4.9 bcm secured during the first filling last year.
Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi called on Ethiopia last week not to compromise Cairo’s share of Nile water, saying “all options are possible,” while stressing that “cooperation is better than fighting.”
His warning on GERD came nearly a week after he waved at “inconceivable instability in the region that no one could imagine,” stressing that his message is “not a threat.”
Egypt’s 100 million-plus population is dependent on the Nile water for 95 percent of its renewable water needs.
The country fears that the massive $4.8 billion Ethiopian hydropower project will significantly diminish its crucial water supply, which is already below scarcity levels.
Meanwhile, Sudan fears the GERD will put the operation of its Roseires dam and the lives of Sudanese citizens – approximately 20 million Sudanese people – at “a very high risk” if an agreement regulating its operation and filling is not reached before the second filling.