Ethiopia hits second-year target for filling Nile mega-dam

WION Web Team
New DelhiUpdated: Jul 19, 2021, 08:52 PM IST

(File photo) Ethiopian dam on the Blue Nile Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a threat because of their dependence on the Nile waters. However, Ethiopia argues that the dam is essential for its own development. No three-way agreement has been reached till now

Ethiopia said on Monday that it had achieved its second-year target for filling the huge dam on the Blue Nile River. The dam is an area of dispute between Ethiopia and downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.

"The first filling already was done last year. The second one is already done today. So today or tomorrow, second filling will be announced," an official told AFP, adding there is now enough water stored to begin producing energy. 

The milestone was later confirmed by Water Minister Seleshi Bekele. The officials had earlier predicted that the milestone would be reached in August.

On Twitter, the minister attributed the accelerated timeline to "extreme rainfall" in the Blue Nile basin.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been at the centre of a regional dispute ever since Ethiopia broke ground on the project in 2011.

The dam is viewed as a threat by Egypt and Sudan because of their dependence on Nile waters. Ethiopia says that the dam is essential for its electrification and development.

Talks held under the auspices of the African Union (AU) have failed to yield a three-way agreement. Egypt and Sudan have urged Ethiopia to stop filling the dam till an agreement is reached.

Ethiopian officials however, have argued that filling is a natural part of the dam's construction process and can't be stopped.

Energy generation

The UN Security Council met earlier this month to discuss the project, although Ethiopia later slammed the session as an "unhelpful" distraction from the AU-led process. 

Egypt claims a historic right to the Nile dating from a 1929 treaty that gave it veto power over construction projects along the river.

A 1959 treaty boosted Egypt's allocation to around 66 percent of the river's flow, with 22 percent for Sudan.
Yet Ethiopia was not party to those treaties and does not see them as valid.

In 2010 Nile basin countries, excluding Egypt and Sudan, signed another deal, the Cooperative Framework Agreement, that allows projects on the river without Cairo's agreement. 

The Nile's main tributaries, the Blue Nile and White Nile, converge in Khartoum before flowing north through Egypt to drain into the Mediterranean Sea. 

The process of filling the GERD's reservoir began last year, with Ethiopia announcing in July 2020 it had hit its target of 4.9 billion cubic metres.

The goal for this year's rainy season -- which had been announced before the first cycle was completed -- was to add 13.5 billion cubic metres. The reservoir's capacity is 74 billion.

With the second-year target hit, the dam can run the first two of its 13 turbines, Seleshi said Monday on Twitter.

"Intensive efforts are being made for the two turbines to generate energy," Seleshi said, adding that "early generation" could be realised "in the next few months."

(With inputs from agencies)