Ethiopia presented on Sunday a new defense to justify its conflict with Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), asserting that the project goes beyond development by being closely related to the survival of Ethiopia.
Zerihun Abebe, a member of the Ethiopian negotiating team said that completing the dam is not just a matter of development, but is more a matter of survival for Ethiopia.
Elaborating on his point, Abebe said Ethiopia’s total surface water resource is about 112 cubic meters per annum.
“Six of the nine regional states of Ethiopia are within that river basin system,” Abebe said, adding that up to 50 million people in those regions directly depend on the Nile river basins.
The Ethiopian official noted that more 65 million Ethiopian people do not have electricity.
He said the dam is framed as a prestigious power project in the Egyptian narratives. “This is a misrepresentation,” Abebe explained, noting that the dam is a question of survival as far as Ethiopia is concerned.
Mahmoud Abu Zeid, President of the Arab Water Council, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday that the “Ethiopian practices and its building of dams without consulting with neighboring downstream countries conflict with norms and violate international laws.”
He said that Ethiopia is considered rich in water with 12 rivers and 22 lakes and groundwater, almost entirely originating from its territories.
“Egypt has a water share of 55 million cubic meters based on historic international agreements, which Ethiopia considers as an unfair sharing of the river resources,” Abu Zeid explained.
Last week, social media platforms in Ethiopia began sharing forums and articles, promoting the dam and belittling Egyptian fears.
This came following the end of a series of international tours conducted by diplomats from the two countries over the past month, after the failure of a US-sponsored agreement at the end of February and Addis Ababa’s announcement of its intention to begin filling the dam reservoir in July.
A final agreement was to be concluded between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan regarding the rules for filling and operating the dam, under the auspices of the US Treasury and the World Bank, last February, but Ethiopia withdrew before the last meeting, refusing to sign, and accused the United States of bias in favor of Egypt.