KHARTOUM, 4 February 2021 – Sudan has warned Ethiopia against Phase II filling of its mega dam before a deal is signed with downstream stakeholders, including Egypt.
Several rounds of talks between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have failed to allay concerns that the construction and filling of the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) would not starve downstream countries – Sudan and Egypt – of vital water supplies.
Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas has said filling the dam without a deal threatens the safety of Sudanese citizens who live on the banks of the Blue Nile River, according to Sudan’s state-run news agency (SUNA).
Egypt has called the dam an existential threat for its people who depend on the Nile for nearly all of their drinking and irrigation water.
Ethiopia says the dam will help it meet the power needs of its 110 million people as well as help reduce poverty in Africa’s second most populated country after Nigeria.
Sudan would like to reach an agreement that ensures that the mega dam will regulate annual flooding in Sudan and the discharge of water from the reservoir would not threaten Sudan’s Roserires Dam downstream on the Blue Nile.
Concerns over the management of shared water resources have been the source of tensions between the three countries since Ethiopia broke ground on the dam in 2011.
The stalled talks have not been helped by the outbreak of a border dispute between Sudan and Ethiopia in the al-Fashaga region.
Ethiopia started filling waters in the reservoir last July.
The most recent talks between the three countries over the dam held in January 2020 but quickly broke down without reaching a deal on how to fill waters into the reservoir behind the mega dam walls which rise 145 meters (475 feet) into the sky.
Last month’s virtual round of negotiations collapsed over a January 8 letter from Ethiopia to the African Union promising to start filling the reservoir next July with 13.5 million cubic meters (264 million cubic gallons) of water, whether a deal is reached or not.
Egypt and Ethiopia have blamed Sudanese objections for the new impasse in the talks, according to a joint statement by Addis Ababa and Cairo.
The Nile is the world’s longest river and a source of life-saving drinking water and electricity for the inhabitants of ten countries it traverses.
The main tributaries of the Nile – the White Nile and Blue Nile – converge in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, then the Nile flows north through Egypt before draining into the Mediterranean Sea.