Egypt will not allow a water crisis to occur due to Ethiopia's intention to go ahead with the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in July, Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Aty said on Sunday.
Nor will Cairo accept a “unilateral” move on the part of Ethiopia, Abdel-Ati told the satellite channel ON E, adding that there are measures it can adopt, revealing no further details.
However, he assured the people they will not feel the impact of the second filling of the dam due to the state’s readiness to face the water shortage.
Ethiopia plans to hold 13.5 billion cubic metres of water during the second filling in the GERD reservoir in July, according to earlier statements by the minister, despite the objections of downstream countries Egypt and Sudan over the move in the absence of a legally binding instrument.
“I assure the citizens that they will not feel an emerging crisis if Ethiopia proceeds with the filling,” he said, urging the people to rationalise their consumption of water amid the rapid population growth.
At present, water is being filtered more than four times to face the water shortage in Egypt, he said, adding that some 120 water mixing stations are being built to make up for the shortage.
Water held in the Aswan High Dam reservoir will be used only in cases of drought, he added.
The minister tackled the stalled negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over the dam.
Ethiopia’s rejection of several proposals by Egypt and Sudan on the negotiation mechanism, which includes an international quartet mediation, has led to the collapse of the Kinshasa talks sponsored by the African Union in April.
The three countries have resorted to diplomacy in the past weeks, briefing regional and international counterparts on their stances and developments on the latest deadlock in negotiations.
Abdel-Ati said negotiations are still at an impasse despite the efforts of the Chairman of the African Union, Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, and the US Envoy to the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman to break the stalemate.
Tripartite cooperation and data sharing are needed to ensure the downstream countries will not be harmed by GERD, he noted.
Abdel-Aty said Tshisekedi is trying to come up with a proposal to resolve the deadlock in talks between the three countries, adding that the US has not presented any proposals to resolve the dispute.
His statements come days after Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that Ethiopia's second filling of GERD will constitute a violation of international law and the 2015 Declaration of Principles that was signed by Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt.
Shoukry warned that the second filling will lead to “tensions in the region and a quarrelling relation and will cause instability in East African and the Horn of Africa.”
Egypt’s 100 million-plus population depends on the Nile for over 95 percent of its fresh water.
Sudan fears the GERD will put the operation of its Roseires dam and the lives of 20 million Sudanese citizens at “a very high risk” if an agreement regulating the operation and filling of GERD is not reached before the second filling.
It warned that it will take legal action if Ethiopia moved forward with the second filling of the GERD in July without first signing a legally binding agreement.
Egypt fears that the massive $4.8 billion Ethiopian hydropower project will significantly diminish its crucial water supply, which is already below scarcity level.