Egypt demands clarification as Ethiopia’s Nile dam fills

Egypt demanded clarification from Ethiopia yesterday over rising water levels at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) after state media in Ethiopia quoted the country’s water minister as saying that the reservoir had begun to be filled.

To Egypt it appeared that Ethiopia had shut the dam’s gates a day after African Union-brokered talks among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia ended in stalemate.

But after his remarks on Ethiopian state television, water minister Seleshi Bekele tweeted that the rise was due merely to the onset of Ethiopia’s rainy season.

"The inflow into the reservoir due to heavy rain fall and runoff exceeded the outflow and created natural pooling," the minister said. "This continues until overflow is triggered soon."

Ethiopia has previously insisted that it would start the years-long process of filling the GERD reservoir on the Blue Nile, a main tributary of the Nile, this month whatever the outcome of long-running talks among the three countries.

Tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia have been rising since Ethiopia started work on the GERD in 2011.

The vast hydropower scheme pits Ethiopia’s desire for development against Egypt’s fears over water security. Egypt relies on the Nile for nearly all its fresh water, and objects to the speed of Ethiopia’s plans to fill the large reservoir.

Repeated rounds of talks have failed to resolve the conflict.

The latest round began in June and was facilitated by the African Union (AU). 

On Wednesday, Seleshi Bekele tweeted that the negotiations had ended without a deal after 11 days, although he added that talks would continue after parties submitted reports.

Amid the confusion yesterday, Egyptian newspaper Ahram reported that Sudan’s Ministry of Irrigation had recorded a decline in the water level of the Blue Nile downstream from Ethiopia, equivalent to 90 million cubic metres per day.

A statement Ahram attributed to the Sudanese irrigation ministry said the drop confirmed "the closure of the GERD’s gates".

Images: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, left, and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, credits:

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