Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan to Finalize Dam Deal on Jan 29

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have agreed on Wednesday to finalize a comprehensive deal on the filling and operation of the grand renaissance dam Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile.

The foreign ministers and water resources officials of the three countries concluded their three days meetings which were attended by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and World Bank President David Malpass as observers.

In a joint statement after the meeting, the ministers “noted the progress achieved” so far and agreed “to finalize a comprehensive agreement” on January 28-29 in Washington.

The ministers reached also a preliminary deal for Ethiopia to fill in the dam’s reservoir during its rainy season.

“Filling will take place during the wet season, generally from July to August, and will continue in September subject to certain conditions,” said the U.S. Treasury Department, which hosted the meeting, in the joint statement.

The filling of the dam is due to begin in July this year.  The ministers agreed that Ethiopia can carry out its plan to rapidly fill in the dam up to the level of 595 meters above sea level for early generation of electricity.

But the subsequent filling will be determined based on the conditions of the river, according to the statement.

Major points from the latest deal  

  • The filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be executed in stages and will be undertaken in an adaptive and cooperative manner that takes into consideration the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the potential impact of the filling on downstream reservoirs.
  • Filling will take place during the wet season, generally from July to August, and will continue in September subject to certain conditions.
  • The initial filling stage of the GERD will provide for the rapid achievement of a level of 595 meters above sea level (m.a.s.l.) and the early generation of electricity, while providing appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan in case of severe droughts during this stage.
  • The subsequent stages of filling will be done according to a mechanism to be agreed that determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of the GERD that addresses the filling goals of Ethiopia and provides electricity generation and appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan during prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought.
  • During long term operation, the GERD will operate according to a mechanism that determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of the GERD that provides electricity generation and appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan during prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought.
  • An effective coordination mechanism and provisions for the settlement of disputes will be established.

Missing point

The ministers will reconvene in Washington again on Jan 28 with the goal of reaching a final and comprehensive agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD.

Ahead of that, the three nations are expected to hold technical and legal talks with the rate at which Ethiopia will draw water out of the Nile to fill the dam’s reservoir still remains the sticking point.

Wednesday’s statement makes no mention of this crux of the dispute.

Ethiopia – which aims to become Africa’s biggest power exporter with a projected capacity of over 6,000 megawatts – wants to do it in six years, but Egypt has proposed at least a 12-year period – fearing that a shorter span will affect the downstream flow of the River Nile.

Observers note that there is still political will to continue talks. “This is progress,” Aaron Salzberg, director of the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina, told the VOA.

“The countries are staying at the table and a vision for the cooperative and adaptive management of GERD — based on hydrology and downstream impacts — is coming together,” Salzberg added.

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