Ethiopia should fill the dam only for two months in a year – the new deal

The latest talks hosted by the U.S. Treasury produced some progress but failed to achieve a comprehensive agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Egypt and Ethiopia are still deadlocked over the dam, despite urging from U.S. President Donald Trump that parties reach a “mutually beneficial agreement.”

The parties had agreed in November to a deadline of January 15, 2020, for reaching an accord on the dam. Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan are scheduled to reconvene in Washington on January 28-29 to finalize an agreement.

Reservoir filling in stages

The parties have agreed that the filling of the dam will be “executed in stages” during the wet season, in a manner that will take into account “the potential impact of the filling on downstream reservoirs,” according to the statement.

The parties have agreed to an initial filling stage of the GERD that will provide for the rapid achievement of a level of 595 meters above sea level and the early generation of electricity, while providing appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan in case of severe droughts during this stage.

The parties have not appeared to agree on how these provisions will be implemented. However, observers note that there is political will to continue talks.

“This is progress,” said Aaron Salzberg, director of the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina and former director of the State Department agency that deals with international transboundary water issues.

“The countries are staying at the table and a vision for the cooperative and adaptive management of GERD — based on hydrology and downstream impacts — is coming together,” Salzberg added.

Prior to negotiations this week, a group of Egyptian academics and civil society circulated a petition calling for the United Nations, African Union and Pan African Parliament to exert pressure on Ethiopia and “avert potential conflict in the region” over the dam.

Ethiopia continues to insist that it is not going beyond a tripartite negotiation on this issue, with U.S. and the World Bank participating only as observers during the three Washington meetings.

Read the following joint statement.

Washington, DC – The Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Water Resources of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and their delegations met with the Secretary of the Treasury and the President of the World Bank, participating as observers, in Washington, D.C. on January 13-15, 2020. The Ministers noted the progress achieved in the four technical meetings among the Ministers of Water Resources and their two prior meetings in Washington D.C. and the outcomes of those meetings and their joint commitment to reach a comprehensive, cooperative, adaptive, sustainable, and mutually beneficial agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Toward that end, the Ministers noted the following points, recognizing that all points are subject to final agreement:

The filling of the GERD will be executed in stages and will be undertaken in an adaptive and cooperative manner that takes into consideration the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the potential impact of the filling on downstream reservoirs.
Filling will take place during the wet season, generally from July to August, and will continue in September subject to certain conditions.
The initial filling stage of the GERD will provide for the rapid achievement of a level of 595 meters above sea level (m.a.s.l.) and the early generation of electricity, while providing appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan in case of severe droughts during this stage.
The subsequent stages of filling will be done according to a mechanism to be agreed that determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of the GERD that addresses the filling goals of Ethiopia and provides electricity generation and appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan during prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought.
During long term operation, the GERD will operate according to a mechanism that determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of the GERD that provides electricity generation and appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan during prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought.
An effective coordination mechanism and provisions for the settlement of disputes will be established.

The Ministers agree that there is a shared responsibility of the three countries in managing drought and prolonged drought.

The Ministers agreed to meet again in Washington, D.C. on January 28-29 to finalize a comprehensive agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD, and that there will be technical and legal discussions in the interim period.

The Ministers recognize the significant regional benefits that can result from concluding an agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with respect to transboundary cooperation, regional development and economic integration that can result from the operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed the importance of transboundary cooperation in the development of the Blue Nile to improve the lives of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, and their shared commitment to concluding an agreement.

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