Since the project was launched in 2011, a controversial Ethiopian dam has been raising tensions as Egypt and Sudan fear for their share of the Nile’s water and the social and economic repercussions of Ethiopia’s actions.
The ramifications of Addis Ababa moving forward with the third filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has deeply unsettled Cairo and Khartoum, which has announced a state of “maximum alert.”
After Cairo received a letter from Ethiopia on July 26 that stated it would continue to fill GERD during this flood season- acting unilaterally and before having reached an agreement- it responded by filing a complaint with the UN Security Council on Friday.
GERD Project Manager, Kifle Horo, has himself admitted that the shares of Egypt and Sudan could be undermined by the filling in an official statement about two months ago.
According to experts, Addis Ababa will fill GERD with approximately five additional billion cubic meters of water, which reduces Egypt's water supply.
Professor of Geology and Water Resources at Cairo University Dr. Abbas Sharaki says that any water stored in the GERD, whether a large or small quantity, is Egyptian-Sudanese water.
If used in agriculture, this water would bring in one billion dollars for every billion cubic meters. It is enough to water 1.1 million feddans of rice fields, and the cost of building water treatment plants to reuse agricultural drainage water, lining canals, developing field irrigation, and expanding greenhouses, among other processes, is extremely high, billions of Egyptian Pounds.
In Sudan, there is panic over the operation of dams, and there are fears of decreased agricultural productivity as a result of silt storage, rising groundwater, and increased costs of agricultural activity because of the need to use additional fertilizers.
In a study he published, Sharaki made several conclusions about the political damage Ethiopia is doing, saying it “is continuing to impose the framework that suits it on the ground, take unilateral decisions, and break international agreements, the Declaration of Principles Agreement it signed in 2015, and the Security Council’s (September 2021) statement.”
He warned that Ethiopia could continue to take similar actions on other projects in the future.
Sharaki goes as far as saying the matter “threatens peace and security in the region, especially after the holding capacity of GERD increased sevenfold.”
In case of a flood, the lives of 20 million Sudanese living by the Nile would be threatened and destroyed, he said.
The Egyptian expert added that the dam could upend the lives of millions of Sudanese farmers “who use simple and inexpensive flood farming methods, depending on the floods of the Blue Nile flowing to both banks in low and flat lands.”
Ethiopia’s insistence on acting unilaterally and disregarding the objections of both Sudan and Egypt has left farmers in both countries fuming, he said.
“More water will evaporate as the lake of GERD rises and the rocks surrounding GERD leak into the reservoir. The trees drowning in the lake will die out and undermine the quality of the water, and the biodiversity in the area will be reduced.”
Addis Ababa has claimed the dam will be among the largest in Africa, and reduced its production from 6,500 to 5,000 megawatts- twice Ethiopia's current levels. It is expected to reach full production capacity in 2024.
Meanwhile Khartoum and Cairo have demanded that Ethiopia compromise to agree to a framework that organizes the GERD’s operation and filling in order to safeguard the shared interests of the three countries.