Egypt angry at Ethiopia over dam fill

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021 00:00 |
A birds eye view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Photo/AFP

Addis Ababa, Tuesday

Egypt has said it received an official notice from Ethiopia that it had started the next phase of filling a controversial huge dam on the Nile River’s main tributary, raising tensions days before an upcoming meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the issue.

In a statement late on Monday, the Egyptian irrigation ministry expressed its “firm rejection of this unilateral measure” and said the move was “a violation of international laws and norms that regulate projects built on the shared basins of international rivers”.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is set to be Africa’s largest hydro-electric project when completed, is the source of an almost decade-long diplomatic standoff between Ethiopia and downstream nations Egypt and Sudan.

Cairo, Sudan fears

Addis Ababa says the project is essential to development, but the governments in Cairo and Khartoum fear it could restrict their citizens’ water access.

There was no immediate comment by Ethiopian government officials confirming that second-phase filling had begun. But a senior water ministry official told AFP news agency it would be in line with the calendar Ethiopia has long said it would follow.

Ethiopia argues that adding water to the reservoir, especially during the heavy rainfalls of July and August, is a natural part of construction.

“Filling goes in tandem with the construction,” said a senior official at the water ministry. “If the rainfall is as you see it now in July, it must have begun.”

The volume of the accumulating water would depend on the amount of seasonal rain that fell in Ethiopia, Egyptian Irrigation Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ghanim told a local TV channel.

“We won’t see any effect now on the Nile. We have a month or a month and a half ahead of us,” he said.

Both Egypt and Sudan have been pushing Ethiopia to sign a binding deal over the filling and operation of the dam, and have been urging the UN Security Council to take the matter up in recent weeks.

Thursday’s meeting was requested by Tunisia on Egypt and Sudan’s behalf, a diplomatic source told AFP news agency. But France’s ambassador to the UN said last week that the council itself can do little apart from bringing the sides together.    - AFP 

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