Filling and Operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – A Way Out
German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Bonn Water Network
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has a concrete volume of 10.5 million m3, making it the largest dam —per volume— in Africa. The dam supposed to be a hydropower dam necessary for the Ethiopian economy. The filling and operation of this gigantic dam, which has a 74-billion-cubic-meter reservoir that can theoretically store as much water as the total annual share of Egypt and Sudan combined, requires a close collaboration between the three riparian countries to avoid significant harm on the downstream ones. The GERD will store water in an area of 1,800 square kilometers—larger than the size of London—resulting in enormous evaporation and seepage losses in addition to possible upstream usage. These billions of cubic meters will be cut from Egypt and Sudan’s current water share. The potential reduction in the Nile water flowing to Egypt comes at a time when the country is significantly dropping below the water poverty line and approaching the absolute scarcity limit (560 m3/capita/year).
In March 2015, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have signed a Declaration of Principles to reach an agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD. For more than a decade since Ethiopian’s unilateral launching of the construction in 2021, the three countries have been engaged in negotiations to conclude a treaty to govern both the filling and the operation without success. The conflictive technical, political, and legal issues as well as the public pressure in the three countries have mad the process of reaching an agreement extremely complex. During the entire process, the construction of the Dam was never stopped and it is now about 90% completed. In summer 2020, Ethiopia has unilaterally decided to execute the first stage of the filling (4.9 BCM) which significantly impacted the drinking water in Sudan as well as other socio-economic aspects. In the previous days, Ethiopia has unilaterally decided and announced to execute the second filling phase this summer 2021. Unfortunately, all the trials to resume negotiations have failed and the conflict is escalating.
In this event, more background information on the water situation in the three countries as well as the Dam and its potential ecological and socio-economic impacts will be provided. Thoughts about these negotiations including technical and legal aspects will be shared. Scenarios for technical solutions will be also presented as a way out of the current critical situation. An opportunity for Q&A will be available by the end of the presentation.
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