File photo: Sudan’s water and irrigation minister Yasser Abbas speaks during an interview in the capital Khartoum on February 6, 2021. (AFP)
Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said on Wednesday that the information sent officially by Ethiopia regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s (GERD) second filling on Monday was actually useless as a fait accompli had been made on its Roseires Dam, reported the Sudanese news agency SUNA.
Abbas added in a message sent to his Ethiopian counterpart Seleshi Bekele that the Ethiopian decision to start filling the Renaissance Dam for the second year in a row constitutes a threat to Sudan.
“Ethiopia had decided to fill the dam for the second year, actually in the first week of May, when it decided to continue the construction of the middle passage of the dam. Therefore, it was clear that when the water flow exceeded the capacity of the two lower gates, the water would be stored until the dam was filled and eventually water would cross over it,” the Sudanese minister said in his letter.
The minister added that Sudan has taken many measures to reduce the expected negative economic and social repercussions of the second filling of the dam, which would mitigate only a few negative impacts on the safe operation of its national dams.
Abbas reiterated that the second filling of the dam was in direct contradiction with the principles of cooperation and non-causation of significant harm stipulated by the international water law.
Moreover, the filling and operation of a large dam such as the GERD without conducting basic and very necessary studies to assess the environmental and social impact are considered a direct violation of established international practices and norms in the construction and operation of big dams.
Concerning the Ethiopian offer to exchange data, Abbas stated in his letter that Sudan requires that the data exchange comes within a legally binding framework that addresses Sudan’s concerns, including the dam's safety conditions and requirements for an environmental and social impact assessment.
Abbas referred to the fact that Ethiopia itself had taken a similar step in its letter to Sudan dated 7 December 2020, which conveyed to Sudan the need to conclude an agreement on the exchange of information between sovereign states.
Minister Abbas stressed that he sincerely hopes that Ethiopia would accept Sudan’s proposal to resume talks on GERD as soon as possible, provided that the negotiations would be effective and meaningful. Therefore, Sudan proposed enhanced negotiations in which the African Union leads a group of international and regional bodies to support reaching an amicable agreement.
Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati also sent a letter to his Ethiopian counterpart conveying Egypt’s categorical rejection of the Ethiopian unilateral move before reaching a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation policies of the dam.
Today, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Sudanese counterpart Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdy are in New York to attend the United Nations Security Council session on GERD, held at the request of Egypt and Sudan.
The session follows the failure of talks between the two downstream countries and Ethiopia. Negotiations were meant to culminate in a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the Ethiopian dam.