Ethiopia started filling the Grand Renaissance Dam

Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan are yet to reach an agreement over the filling and operation of the dam. 

Ethiopia _ Dam filling
Image : Maxar via EBC

borkena
July 15, 2020

Ethiopia has confirmed that it has started filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Fana Broadcasting Corporate, State-affiliated local media, cited Ethiopia’s Minister for Water, Irrigation, and Energy – Seleshi Bekeke, as saying that the dam is getting filled in line with the natural course of the construction.

He has also confirmed that the latest Satellite images of the dam, which is published by some media outlets and circulating on social media too, are correct.

However, his twitter message seems to have a different tone. He called the new water level “natural pooling” due to heavy rain rather than an action on the part of Ethiopia to fill the dam as scheduled.

“The GERD construction has reached level 560m compared to level 525m last year this time. The inflow into the reservoir due to heavy rainfall and runoff exceeded the outflow and created natural pooling. This continues until overflow is triggered soon,” he said in his tweet. The height will grow to 640 meters upon completion of the project.

In a statement the Minister gave to local journalists on Tuesday, he said there was a meeting with other African countries in which Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan took part.

An agreement has been reached on some points (unspecified) but he said there was also a difference regarding issues that are said to have a long-lasting impact on the interest of Ethiopia.

Experts from Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Madagascar, and South Africa have participated in the meeting, as confirmed by the Minister. 

Earlier this week, he confirmed that the three countries failed to reach agreement after eleven rounds of latest trilateral talks which the African Union observed. 

Disagreement over the dam

The three countries often say that an agreement is reached on many issues. However, it is confirmed by all parties that it has been difficult to strike a deal on legal and technical points regarding the filling and operation of the dam.

Drought management is said to be one of the contentious points. Pressure to impose a responsibility on Ethiopia to release water from the dam in the event of prolonged drought is part of the reason why it became difficult to reach an agreement.

Experts see no major environmental changes that could affect the water level in the near future. The Associated Press cited Kevin Wheeler, a researcher at the Environmental Change Institute (University of Oxford), who said that the escalating tension and rhetoric has more to do with changing power dynamics in the region rather than water shortage in the near future.

Filling the dam

The issue of filling the dam has become a movement for Ethiopians. The hashtag #FillTheDam and #Itismydam has been trending on twitter.  And Ethiopia has disclosed that it will fill the dam despite no agreement being reached over legal and technical matters.

In the initial phase, Ethiopia aims to fill 4.9 billion cubic meters of water. In the second phase, the dam will retain 13.5 billion cubic meters of water.

Filling up the dam is expected to take between five and seven years.



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