As Egypt focuses its efforts on containing the COVID-19 pandemic inside the boundaries of the country, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been maintaining attempts to reach an agreement over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
However, even without an agreement, Ethiopia recently announced that it would start filing its ambitious mega dam in July 2020.
Earlier this month, Ethiopia’s obstinate decision despite a failure to reach an agreement with Sudan and Egypt prompted the latter to submit a complaint letter to the UN Security Council.
“Ethiopia’s unilateral filling of GERD before reaching a final agreement with downstream countries on the rules governing the filling and dam operation is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation between co-riparian countries that share an international watercourse and amounts to material breach of Ethiopia’s legal obligations,” reads the letter, according to the East African news outlet.
Ethiopia’s move to proceed with engineering, construction and filing operations despite the diplomatic efforts to reach the agreement constitute a major hurdle for its downstream neighbors whose water shares in the Nile are significant and historical.
It also highlighted the failure of diplomatic efforts to reach this consensus despite several rounds of talks in Washington at the end of 2019 and the beginning of this year. An initial agreement had been drafted, and was ready to be signed, however Ethiopia’s no-show to the meeting in Washington cast an ominous outcome to the talks.
Indeed, as the rest of the world and Egypt honed efforts on containing the COVID-19 pandemic during the last couple of months, Ethiopia released an a ‘partial agreement’ in April regarding the first filing operations of the dam. This agreement was refused by both Egypt and Sudan due to legal and technical aspects, as per Al Ahram.
Only 263 COVID-cases with a death toll of five have been confirmed in Ethiopia, contrasting sharply with Egypt’s 10, 431 with a death toll of 556 and 1,661 with a death toll of 80 in Sudan.
GERD, a $4.8 billion hydropower project, is set to be completed in 2022 and aims to boost Ethiopia’s economy despite being a crucial point of contention with Egypt for the last eight years.
The heart of Egypt and Ethiopia’s disagreement lies in both countries’ proposals regarding the filing process as well as the allocation amount of water for each.
The filing process is the deliberate storage of water to perform the function for which the dam is designed. For this step, Ethiopia estimates 4 to 7 years as sufficient while Egypt insists on 12 to 21 years.
Featured image courtesy of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs via Facebook.