Ethiopia completes second filling of Nile dam

Ethiopia just completed the second filing of the highly controversial dam on the Blue Nile River.

The news was shared by Ethiopia’s Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation which confirmed the occurrence - drawing outrage from Egypt which described it as a “dangerous escalation” and is currently weighing its next options. 

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Addis Ababa has remained adamant over the necessity of the $4 billion hydropower project that remains vital for its economic development in power generation. However, the project has drawn lots of concern of future water shortages from Egypt and Sudan whose populations depend on the river’s waters. In an attempt to show sensitivity of the matter, Ethiopia’s PM issued a statement on July 20 attributing the successful second filling of the Nile dam to the rainy season. He also expressed confidence that the second filling would not affect countries downstream. 

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Both countries are calling for a binding legal agreement before Ethiopia can continue filling the dam any further. Unfortunately, none of the parties involved have arrived at amicable terms as rising concerns over tensions could rise following the recent announcement. 

Early this year in July the UNSC backed an AU bid to mediate the talks and called for all parties to immediately resume talks. 

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The disagreement has locked Sudan and Egypt into a tense dispute over the dam amidst Ethiopia’s growing insistence to have the reservoir filled without arriving at any binding agreement with neighboring countries downstream. 

Speaking to Al Monitor, Egypt’s former minister of Irrigation Mohammed Nasr Allam said that Ethiopia was still unable to generate electricity from the dam despite the second filing, due to technical problems resulting from its construction. He also said that the first filling conducted last year also experienced the same technical problems in it’s construction. 

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Allam clarified that they are not against Ethiopia filling the dam but rather a lack of agreement that meets the interests of all three countries. He raised concerns over GERD affecting dams in Sudan - resulting in irrigation and drinking water shortages. According to Allam, the country is carefully weighing its options including waiting on the UN Security Council to adopt the draft submitted by Tunisia

Egypt has an estimated  annual water demand of 60 billion cubic meters most of which comes from the Nile. However Egypt’s annual water demand is at 114 billion cubic meters - the shortfall is compensated by rainfall, groundwater ,and wastewater. 

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Speaking on the 15th of July, while marking the first anniversary of a rural development initiative  Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that every drop retained for filling the GERD dam would result in water shortages for water shortages in drinking, irrigation, and production eventually resulting in drought and farming. He went to mention that the country now has several options to adopt depending on the situation and circumstances. 

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On July 20, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on phone with the President of the DRC who currently chairs the AU on the need to resolve the GERD crisis. According to the state department, he laid emphasis on the AU’s role to reduce conflict and mediate the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam debate.