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Ethiopia on Egypt's proposal to fill Renaissance Dam: 'tricky yet ridiculous'

October 5, 2019 at 10:05 am

Ethiopia continues its rejection of any new Egyptian proposal regarding the filling of the Renaissance Dam, as Ethiopian newspapers reported that water experts have confirmed that the recent Egyptian proposal on the rules of filling the Renaissance Dam is detrimental to the interests of their country.

The recent Egyptian proposal on the rules of filling the Renaissance Dam is deemed to be a very dangerous “trap”, as it requires Ethiopia to fill the dam in several stages, the first of which extends across two years. The country cannot progress to the second stage until the assessment of the impact on downstream countries is complete, confirmed the experts in statements to a local Ethiopian newspaper.

The head of Ethiopia’s National Water Experts Group, Faqih Ahmad, told local media that this is the first trap set by the Egyptian authorities to halt the filling of the dam.

READ: Ethiopia rejects Egypt’s proposal on Renaissance Dam

“The proposal does not specify the time and the way that the next stage will be carried out. Egypt’s new proposal demands Ethiopia to release 40 billion cubic metres of Nile water on an annual basis to the downstream countries. Egypt’s proposal also stated that the natural flow of the Nile water should not be affected in any way. This is another serious point, and if accepted by Addis Ababa, it will leave the reservoir of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam without water,” explained Ahmad.

Ethiopia controls the gates of Nile and life of Egyptians, Egypt controls Gaza gates and life of Gazans – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

He further stated that the volume of water that moves from Ethiopia to downstream countries, ranges between 29 billion and 79 billion cubic metres per year, while the proposal demands Ethiopia to release 40 billion cubic metres of water to the downstream countries per year. He posed the question, if the volume of the Nile water becomes 30 billion cubic metres, where will Ethiopia get the remaining 10 billion cubic metres of water?

According to the Egyptian proposal, Ethiopia needs to release more water when the volume of water in the Aswan Dam, in Egypt, falls below 165 metres. It also stipulates that the dam be filled only within seven years.

The Ethiopian minister of water, irrigation and electricity, Seleshi Bekele, confirmed that Ethiopia cannot be sure about the volume of water it would export to downstream countries, for several reasons, including the growing demand for water for development purposes in the country.

Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are currently holding their fifth meeting of the National Independent Scientific Research Group (NISRG) in Khartoum, from 4 to 5 October 2019. The meeting is expected to address the agenda of the works which were agreed upon during the meeting of the three countries’ ministers of water, held in Cairo from 15 to 16 September 2019.

READ: Egypt asks Ethiopia to fill Renaissance Dam within 7 years

The Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office (ENTRO) executive director, Fekahmed Negash, declared that Egypt’s proposal to fill the Renaissance Dam violates the procedures that should be followed.

The Ethiopian official pointed out that it should be Ethiopia that puts forth a proposal regarding the filling of the dam, and not Egypt, despite acting as the proprietor of the dam.

“Egypt is coming up with its own proposal, while the dam actually belongs to Ethiopia. The logical order is that Ethiopia will come up with the filling plan, and Egypt can respond to that. Egypt can indicate concern on Ethiopia’s proposal, and can request improvement on Ethiopia’s proposal,” added Negash.

According to the Ethiopian official, Egypt’s proposal will “significantly” affect Ethiopia.

The release of 40 billion cubic metres of water will most certainly have profound implications on the time of filling. It will also have an economic and moral impact, in addition to implications relating to the sovereignty of the country, Negash elaborated.

READ: Egypt hands Ethiopia its vision of Renaissance Dam

He noted that if Ethiopia accepts the release of 40 billion cubic metres, and maintaining the level of the Aswan at 165 metres above the ground, “there is a probability that the dam will never be filled.”

Egypt proposed that the dam should be filled in seven years, and the filling could progress if the level of the water of the  Aswan Dam reaches 165 metres above the ground. It also proposed that Ethiopia should release 40 billion cubic metres of water annually.

Ethiopia immediately rejected the proposal, claiming that it disrespects its sovereignty and the right to develop its resources.

Ethiopia began construction of the dam in April 2011, with the aim of generating electricity to meet local demands and earn foreign currency. The dam, which reached approximately 68.3 per cent of the overall construction process, is expected to generate 750 megawatts of power next year. The dam would also generate 6,450 megawatts of power upon completion, making it the largest hydroelectric dam in the continent, and the seventh largest dam in the world.