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Biden supports Egypt’s water security as Ethiopia prepares third filling of GERD

July 17, 2022

Charles Dietz
Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia
Energy & Resources

As Ethiopia prepares to start the third filling of the reservoir behind its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), US President Joe Biden has reiterated support for Egypt’s water security and to forging an agreement over use of the waters of the Nile that will be in the interest of all parties.

In a joint statement with President Sisi of Egypt issued after their meeting in Jeddah on 16 July, he reiterated “the imperative of concluding an agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD without further delay as stipulated in the Statement of the President of the United Nations Security Council dated September 15, 2021, and in accordance with international law,” according to a statement from the White House.

Long-running dispute

The building of the GERD has been the object of a long-running dispute between Nile downstream countries Egypt and Sudan, on the one hand, and Ethiopia, where the Blue Nile rises, on the other.

The two former countries are dependent on Nile waters and fear that the filling of the reservoir behind the dam, which has a capacity of 74 cubic km, equivalent to 1.6 years of average flow of the Blue Nile, will reduce the water available to them.

The Nile contributes 90% of Egypt’s fresh water and underpins its irrigation and power generation

It is estimate that filling the reservoir will take between four and seven years, with the first two stages already complete. A third filling is due to begin in August, according to a statements made in late May by GERD project manager Kifle Horo reported by Ahram Online.

Talks between the parties broke down in 2020. Egypt insisted that filling of the dam should not proceed without agreement and took the matter to the UN Security Council, which called for the resumption of AU-led negotiations to reach a binding agreement.

While Egypt and Sudan fear for their water security, Ethiopia wishes to press ahead with the project, which will double its electricity output to 16,000 GW and help to provide power for the 44% of Ethiopia’s households have access to electricity.

Ethiopia switches on dam

On 21 February, Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed officially inaugurated the dam, which began producing power from a 375 MW turbine.

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, inaugurates the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on 20 February 2022. (Photo by Amanuel SILESHI / AFP)

Addis Ababa claims that the electricity generated by the dam will benefit not only Ethiopia but the entire region.

In a 2020 article for African Business, academics Addisu Lashitew of the Brookings Institution and Haim Kassa of Miami University argued that Egypt should be able to absorb temporary shortfalls by releasing water from the Aswan High Dam and said that “Egypt and Sudan will enjoy a special priority in terms of power exports from the GERD”.

1 Comment

  1. I don’t see any malice in President Biden’s statement telling us we already know. Yes Egypt’s water security should not be subjected to a manmade risk. The dam was designed by our over qualified engineers that included Obbo Dr. Sileshi bin Bekele and is being built to almost completion in a way that it will never adversely affect the needed flow of water to either Sudan of Egypt. The proof is in the pudding already. The 1st and 2nd phase of filling of the dam have been done already and in the words of a minister in the current el-Sisi’s cabinet both fillings did not reduce a cup of water from the river. It is going through the 3rd round of filling and I did not see a long line of people in Alexandria waiting to fill their jugs. I did not make this up. The Egyptian minister had attested himself. There is nothing wrong to talk about Egypt’s water security. A farmer in remote location in Ethiopia who never been to school would tell you the same thing. Let’s not scratch the surface to find something just to feed our raw and misplaced emotion. The eternal truth is people of the old country has the rights to utilize all their Allah given natural resources to drag themselves out of abject poverty without letting their neighbors near and afar going thirsty. The dam was not, is not and will never be a death knell to Egypt. It will keep flowing at full throttle as it has done for the ages while it is bringing new happier life to more than 120 million black folks. You dig?

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