Addis Ababa: News of unrest comes from the East African nations when Egypt and Sudan accuse Ethiopia for filling up a massive dam over the Nile river. Egypt and Sudan, being the downstream nations complained that the water levels in the Blue Nile, the river’s main tributary on which the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is being built, have declined by around 90 million cubic meters per day. This happened because Ethiopia shuts its gates, Sudan said.
The Minister for Water resources in the horn of Africa nation first confirmed the dam filling procedure by Ethiopia but later corrected that the water rise was due to heavy rain in Ethiopia. Egypt, which depends on the Nile for more than 90 per cent of its water, said it has asked the Ethiopian government for an “official clarification” of the minister’s comments.
Wednesday’s conflicting statements came a day after the release of satellite images purporting to show the reservoir behind the dam filling. Experts said it was rainwater rather than a deliberate action by Addis Ababa to fill the nearly completed $4.6 billion, 6,000-megawatt dam on the Blue Nile. The photos were taken on July 9 and made public on Tuesday, the day after the latest round of talks involving Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on the operation of the dam ended without a breakthrough.
“Water behind the dam photographed by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite was probably a natural backing-up of rain water behind the dam caused by rainy season conditions,” said William Davison, International Crisis Group’s expert on Ethiopia. Ethiopia has long maintained it would start filling the dam in mid-July regardless of whether an agreement was reached with Egypt and Sudan. The months of July and August witness the peak of the Blue Nile’s annual flooding caused by the seasonal rain on the Ethiopian highlands. “The construction of the dam and the filling of the water go hand in hand,” Ethiopia’s water minister, Seleshi Bekele, told the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation. He also confirmed the satellite images of July 9. Media outlets also quoted him as saying the filling has begun.
However, the minister later told the Associated Press that the images in fact reflected heavy rainfall. He did not explain the discrepancy in his comments. Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on Monday wrapped up nearly two weeks of talks on the disputed dam without a breakthrough. “Unchanged and additional and excessive demands of Egypt and Sudan prohibited the conclusion of this round of negotiations by an agreement,” Mr Bekele said on Wednesday.
Egypt, which has long blamed Ethiopia for the lack of progress in the talks, fears the dam would significantly reduce its vital share of the river’s waters, costing the most populous Arab nation hundreds of thousands of jobs and disrupting its food security. Sudan is concerned a structural breach in the dam could flood large swathes of its territory and maintains that, without operational co-ordination, the GERD could close its own hydroelectric dams on the Blue Nile. Ethiopia has sought to reassure Egypt and Sudan, saying the dam on the Blue Nile is key to the alleviation of its widespread poverty and is meant to benefit, not harm, the two downstream countries as well as other Nile basin countries.
Egyptian officials have so far avoided any reference to military action to settle the dispute, but Mr. Abdel Fatah El Sisi has recently declared without mentioning the dispute directly that his military was prepared to carry out missions outside the country.