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Ethiopia Begins Filling Up Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam?

Updated: Jul 18, 2020

On July 15, 2020 Ethiopia’s state television reported that the country has began filling up its gigantic hydro-electric dam called Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) located on Blue Nile. However, the government there has dismissed the television report as incorrect, reported some media on July 16, 2020.

According to the media reports, the government of Ethiopia has said any observed water increase in the dam’s reservoir, vividly visible in satellite images, is a result of heavy rainfall. Despite the denial by the government, some of the media sources still believe filling up of the hydro-electric dam said to be the biggest in Africa, has indeed commenced.

Recent talks between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt seeking an agreement about a long-standing dispute over the mammoth $5 billion hydro-electric dam are said to have stalled on legal and technical grounds. An agreement was expected before the filling up of the dam could start. Nevertheless, Ethiopia had indicated earlier that it would fill up the dam when its rainy season begins in July 2020, with or without an agreement.

The Blue Nile provides about 86% of the Nile water that flows to Sudan and Egypt. As such, the latter in particular, that depends on the Nile for 90% of its water supply, maintains that GERD will drastically decrease the amount of water it gets from the Nile for its over 100 million inhabitants hence threatens its very existence.

Ethiopia on its part, says GERD is vital for its development through supplying electricity to its rapidly growing economy as well as more than 70 million people in rural areas who currently have no access to electricity. Also, they argue the dam reservoir will provide water for more than 100 million Ethiopians.

Albeit labelled controversial in some quarters elsewhere, in Ethiopia per se GERD is seen as the country’s flagship infrastructure project of great national pride. The project is said to be extremely popular and unifying artefact from top to grassroot levels, totally unfettered by even Ethiopia’s chronic ethnic divisions. This popularity of GERD could probably be partly because hitherto the project, Ethiopians have been feeling as mere custodians of the Blue Nile, having not benefited much from it due to a colonial era Nile River treaty that entirely excludes Ethiopia and gives downstream countries, especially Egypt, rights to the bulk of the river's water.


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