GP Insights # 221, 19 January 2020
In the news
Following a meeting in Washington DC, held during 13-15 January 2020, a draft deal has been agreed between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). There was an agreement that the dam should be filled in stages during the rainy season, and the filling would be undertaken adaptively and cooperatively. They also agreed to take into consideration the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the impact of the filling on downstream reservoirs.
The meeting was attended by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Water Resources of Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan and, their delegations, along with the Secretary of the US Treasury and the President of the World Bank.
The dam built by Ethiopia is 80 per cent completed; it wants to start generating electricity as soon as possible. However, Egypt is concerned about its water supplies if it gets filled too fast.
The Ministers have now agreed to meet again in Washington during 28-29 January to conclude a comprehensive agreement on the filling and functioning of the GERD. They have also called for technical and legal discussions in the interim period.
Issues at large
The Nile River basin is a troubled region that has been plagued by armed conflicts, severe drought, and many other issues, however. The dam has been a source of dispute since its construction. Egypt and Ethiopia have had their disagreements with Sudan being in the middle, who initially opposed the idea of the dam but later came on board with the promises of irrigation and electricity aids.
Construction of the current dam began in 2011 when the Arab Spring was ongoing, and Egypt was preoccupied. Although the site was identified between 1956 and 1964 until 2009 the plans for the dam were not ready. Over the years, construction was delayed due to corruption and mishandling issues.
The project has been the source of serious regional differences between the three countries witnessing many deadlocks. Further, the perception about the dam in these countries are different; Egypt fears that the dam would aggravate the already existing water crisis in the country by cutting its share of the Nile, while Ethiopia sees the dam as a necessity to its economic development.
The preliminary agreement comes as a sign of relief for this troubled region, a matter of concern because the countries could be drawn into war if the matter remained unresolved. The framework also lays down clearly the operations of the dam, wherein all three countries would be allowed to make adequate provisions to utilize the resources. Thereby lowering the chances of a conflict.
Second, energy generated by the dam be sufficient for Ethiopia producing surplus power that can be sold to the neighbouring countries, including Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti, and Eritrea.
Third, the three countries have spent nearly eight years in finding a solution to address this matter, given the current global situation of climate change and shifting weather patterns that cause severe problems. There is a need to address conflicts of this kind, as a delay in solving these issues would have a much catastrophic impa