“The Egyptian people are closely following the developments of the GERD issue. And I would like to assure our aspiration to reach — as soon as possible and without further delay — a balanced and legally binding agreement… in line with the presidential statement issued by the Security Council in September 2021,” El-Sisi said on Sunday in a recorded speech to the opening session of Cairo Water Week 2021.
The president said such an agreement would guarantee Ethiopia’s development goals as well as limit the water, environmental, social, and economic damages of the dam to the downstream countries — Egypt and Sudan.
The decade-old negotiations last stalled in April, with both downstream countries blaming the latest instance of failure of the talks on Ethiopia’s intransigence. Egypt and Sudan have been negotiating with Ethiopia to reach a legally binding agreement that regulates the rules for filling and operating the dam.
Egypt fears that its water supply will be diminished by the dam while Sudan is concerned about regulating flows to its own dams.
Ethiopia has repeatedly refused to sign such a deal, and, instead, insists on mere guidelines that can be modified at any time at its discretion.
In September, the UN Security Council adopted a presidential statement encouraging Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia “to resume negotiations” to swiftly reach a “mutually acceptable and binding agreement on the filling and operation” of Ethiopia’s mega-dam.
Cairo and Khartoum resorted to the security council after Ethiopia unilaterally completed the first and second filling of its controversial dam despite the absence of an agreement.
The water situation in Egypt
Egypt, which has been paying special attention to water issues recently, is hosting the fourth edition of the CWW — with a significant number of ministers, official delegations, and senior officials in attendance at the event — with the aim of spreading awareness on water issues and promoting innovation to face the most pressing water-related challenges.
El-Sisi underscored that the current chapter on water rights and issues represents “an early case of how access to water could be compromised around the world in the near future amid the continued challenges of water scarcity and the inability to enact effective cross-border coordination and cooperation.”
Egypt’s annual share of water per capita does not exceed 650 m3, which is well below the international threshold for water poverty specified by the United Nations at 1,000 m3 per capita annually, El-Sisi stressed.
The Egyptian president said that Cairo has drawn up a four-pronged strategy to manage its water resources through 2037 at an initial cost of up to $50 billion.
The strategy aims to rationalise water use, improve water quality, provide additional water resources via establishing water treatment plants, and creating a climate suitable for optimal water management.
Additionally, El-Sisi called for upholding the principles of international cooperation and solidarity in order for the world to overcome all water-related challenges.
He assured that the global water crisis is a pressing challenge due to the steady rise in the world’s population and the depletion of fresh water sources.
El-Sisi added that environmental deterioration, climate change, and the establishment of uncharted water projects without taking into account the importance of maintaining safety and sustainability have also affected the availability of water worldwide.
The Egyptian president expressed his hope that the CWW’s discussions will promote the rational and sustainable management of water resources as well as encourage riparian states to uphold the values of integration and participation, activate the rules of justice and equity, and not harm the interests of their neighbours.