ADDIS ABABA – Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen insisted the second-year filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will be conducted as scheduled.
As per government’s official plan, the filling will be conducted between July and August amid Egypt and Sudan’s effort to pressure Ethiopia not to do so.
Speaking to a webinar organised to discuss the Dam’s role in regional cooperation’ on Thursday, Foreign Minister Demeke said the filling will go ahead as agreed by the national scientific research group (NISRG) of the three countries.
A 2015 Declaration of Principles Ethiopia signed with Egypt and Sudan also recognizes the need for Ethiopia to carry on with construction while the three countries engage in trilateral negotiations.
Ethiopia, the source of the Blue Nile which joins the White Nile in Khartoum and runs on to Egypt, plans to test two of the hydro scheme’s turbines soon after the second filling and retain nearly 14bln cubic meters at the 70bcm capacity reservoir.
Demeke, who is also Ethiopia’s Foreign minister, further said Ethiopia has confidence in the role of the AU in facilitating the negotiations and bringing the process to a successful conclusion.
He also reaffirmed Ethiopia’s conviction on the principle of finding African solutions to African problems.
Egypt and Sudan are attempting to exert unnecessary pressure on Ethiopia through different means including the internationalization and politicization of technical issues which will only undermine trust among the three countries, the deputy prime minister added.
The webinar was organized by Ethiopian embassies accredited to neighboring countries and the great lakes region jointly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia.
Deng Dau Deng, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of South Sudan, told participants of the webinar that the GERD is a peace project that will benefit all in the region.
With this understanding, he said the South Sudan parliament will soon ratify the Nile basin Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA).
The CFA , also known as the Entebbe Agreement, outlines rights and obligations for the development of the Nile Basin water resources.
The agreement has been signed by six member os Nile Basin Initiative states including Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi.
Deng expressed his hope that the tripartite negotiation will be concluded with a mutually beneficial agreement adding that the riparian countries should have been part of the consultation since the river basin is a shared resource.
Ethiopia broke ground for its $5 billion flagship hydro dam project in 2011 and the original completion year was already overdue by four years. Since the change in the administration three years ago, GERD’s has sped up and is now 80 percent complete.
According to the project managers, 55.2 % of its hydraulic structure works, 91% of its civil works, and 54% of the electro-mechanical works are complete.
Apart from filling its ever growing electric energy for domestic and industrial use, Ethiopia plans to generate much needed foreign currency from the sale of electricity generated from the Dam to neighboring countries.