Water ministers discuss Ethiopia's controversial dam

Egyptian Water and Irrigation minister Mohamed Abdel Aty (left) addressing the media in Addis Ababa on October 18, 2017, during a meeting on the Grand Ethiopian Reconnaissance Dam. ANDAULEM SISAY | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Water ministers from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are meeting in Addis Ababa to continue discussions on the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The ministers on Tuesday visited the GERD construction site and were Wednesday expected to hold closed-door discussions on mainly the controversial part - the filling and operation of GERD

Downstream Egypt expressed concerns about GERD from the very beginning, indicating that it would reduce the amount of water coming in, while Sudan seems to be convinced about the need for the giant reservoir, mainly because it would regulate the flow of water and prevent flooding.

“It is not abnormal to have differences among us. These differences may present challenges, but they also open opportunities for cooperation on regional integration, poverty alleviation, among others,” said Mr Mutaz Musa, the Sudan minister for Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity.

The Egyptian counterpart, Dr Mohamed Abdel Aty, expressed his country’s disappointment at the delay of the work of the joint study scheduled to start last February.

He indicated that Egypt was "very concerned with the delays in the joint studies recommended by the International Panel of Experts (IPOE)''.

“We are facing a crucial situation, as we signed the contract with the consultancy firm in September 2016. The commencement date was 15th February 2017 and until this moment we are not able to approve the Draft Inception Report…This visit gave us insight regarding the development on the ground related to GERD, which requires urgent actions in order to conclude the discussions, adoption of the draft inception report and finally empower the assigned consultant to complete the requested two studies in due time,” he said.

IPOE was established in May 2012 to address the concerns of Sudan and Egypt regarding the safety and downstream impacts of Ethiopia’s 1,870 meters long and 145 meters high dam.

So far, 60 per cent of the total GERD project, which will have a storage volume of 74 billion meters, was complete, according to Ethiopia’s Water, Irrigation and Electricity Seleshi Bekele.

Dr Seleshi stressed the need for cooperation in the filling and operation of the dam as one of the 10 principles the heads of the three countries agreed in March 2015 in Khartoum.

“If we focus on the actual pros and cons of GERD, without linking to other complicated issues around Nile discourse, the issue we have would be simpler and I urge you to focus on the pending, but most important issues,” Dr Seleshi said.

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