Ethiopia begins filling Grand Renaissance Dam reservoir, says minister

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - After over a decade of failed talks, Ethiopia has taken controversial action by beginning to fill the dam

A view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and reservoir behind it on June 26,2020. Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies via REUTERS

A view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and reservoir behind it 16 days later on July 12, 2020. Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies via REUTERS

A closeup view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia July 12, 2020. Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies via REUTERS

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The National

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

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Ethiopia has begun filling the reservoir behind the Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD), the country's minister of water and irrigation announced on Wednesday.

The impounding of water into the controversial Blue Nile project comes despite Ethiopia failing to reach an agreement with downstream neighbours Sudan and Egypt, who fear for their water supplies. Talks have been ongoing for almost a decade.

"The construction of the dam and the filling of the water go hand in hand," Seleshi Bekele said in comments broadcast on television on Wednesday.

The most recent round of negotiations between the three nations, hosted by the African Union, to agree a regulated flow of water from the huge hydroelectric dam failed after 11 online sessions over a fortnight.

The $4 million, 6,000-megawatt mega-project, which will lessen water flow into the main Nile river, is the centrepiece in Ethiopia's bid to become Africa's biggest power exporter.

"Unchanged and additional and excessive demands of Egypt and Sudan prohibited the conclusion of this round of negotiation by an agreement," said Mr Bekele in a statement on Tuesday.

It did not elaborate but said Ethiopia was willing to show flexibility as talks would continue.

The three countries had been expected to sign an agreement in Washington in February but Ethiopia skipped the meeting and only Egypt initialled the deal.

Khartoum hopes the dam will help regulate flooding, but in June it warned that millions of lives will be at "great risk" if Ethiopia unilaterally fills the dam.

In a letter to the United Nations Security Council, Sudan raised concerns that water discharged from the GERD could "compromise the safety" of its own Roseires Dam by overwhelming it and causing flooding.

Last month, Egypt also appealed to the UNSC to intervene in the crisis – a move Sisi said underlined his country's commitment to a political solution.

Updated: July 15, 2020 06:19 PM

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