Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have been locked in a bitter dispute over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). This conflict which started after the announcement of dam building by Ethiopia on River Blue Nile when Egypt was busy in the Arab Spring in 2011. The Nile is flowing northward through the tropical climate of Eastern Africa and into the Mediterranean Sea, the Nile River is the longest in the world at 4,135 miles (6,650 kilometres). Egypt relies on the Nile River for 90% of its freshwater for farming. After the survey of August, November 2010, Ethiopian Govt. decided to build this dam on river Blue Nile near the Sudan border (15 Miles) in USD 4.8 billion. The Project was initiated by the Ethiopian Premier on April 2, 2011.
This dam will produce 6000 megawatts electricity which will be a major boost to Ethiopian National Grid as this electricity is enough both for domestic use and export. The dam will also help Ethiopia to defeat poverty. Ethiopia considers this a vital project for economic prosperity. After its completion, it will be the largest hydro Electric Power dam in Africa (Covering surface area, 1700 km) and 7th largest in the world. On the other hand, Egypt fears a short-term reduction of water availability due to the filling of the dam and a permanent reduction because of evaporation from the reservoir. The GERD flows into Egypt might be temporarily reduced, which may affect the income of two million farmers during the age of filling the reservoir. It will also “affect Egypt’s electricity supply by 25% to 40%.
However, the increased storage in Ethiopia can provide a bigger buffer to scarcities in Sudan and Egypt during years of future drought. Egypt considers this as a national security issue that is why wants Ethiopia to sign a solid agreement before filling the reservoir. Without any proper settlement with Egypt, the building of the massive upstream Nile dam could threaten both Egypt’s Agronomic economy and chronological heritage built over the Nile River. Ethiopia wants to fill the reservoir as soon as possible by starting from July 2020 and it is an alarming situation for Egypt. The step of Ethiopia can make Egypt a drought land.
A series of dialogues and meetings were held between the three stakeholders. Sudanese President announced support for the dam after the meeting of 2012, between the water ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Ethiopian officials pledged to export electricity to Sudan at a low cost. It was obvious as the building of this dam will not affect Sudan as much as Egypt because apart from low-cost electricity, it would help Sudan to control the floods as the GERD would reduce seasonal flooding.
The legal issue which is the main problem behind the failure of talks is that In 2010 upper riparian states signed a Nile treaty (Cooperative Framework Agreement) which deals with the share of water and other issues related to the Nile, which has not been signed up by either Egypt or Sudan. Both claim it encroach upon the 1959 treaty, in which Sudan and Egypt give themselves superior rights to all of the Nile’s waters. But Ethiopia and other considerations that as imperial treaty imposed by Britain as they needed both Sudan and Egypt during the colonization.
To deal with this Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan established an International Panel of Experts to review and assess the study reports of the dam. But all sides have different versions regarding the reports submitted by that panel. Many meetings have followed, but a settlement has not been reached because the Nile Water Agreements have shown a particularly intractable sticking point.
Egypt launched a diplomatic campaign to deal with the crisis. Egypt called on the US for mediation, which started in February 2019, but Ethiopia backed off from the talks. Accusing the US and World Bank of siding with Egypt contrary to the co-observer role initially assured by them. Ethiopian government soon after this issued statement that “it will not be pressured on Nile River”.
As of October 2019, the work stood at around 70% completion. The GERD-reservoir, once it has filled, has a total water volume of 74 km3. Filling it takes 5–15 years with water, depending on hydrologic conditions during the filling period and deal reached between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt, and even by using all generating units at supreme capacity will not drain it within a few months. But many analyst fears that these countries could be drawn into clash if the agreement does not reach before the dam is being operational.