(Reuters) – The giant dam Ethiopia has constructed on the Blue Nile made no impact on this year’s floods in Sudan, which had taken costly precautions in the absence of any deal to regulate the flow of water, a Sudanese official said.
Ethiopia has spent years in tense negotiations over the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with Sudan and Egypt, both of which are downstream of the dam, but have yet to come to an agreement and the dam remains a bone of contention between the countries.
Sudan has said the dam could have a positive effect on flooding during the rainy season, and hoped to benefit from electricity production, but has complained of a lack of information from Ethiopia on the dam’s operation.
Sudan and Egypt had demanded Ethiopia hold off on a second round of filling the dam before a binding agreement was signed regulating its operation and mandating the sharing of data Sudan feels is necessary to maintain its own dams and water stations.
“Despite the unilateral filling of the Renaissance Dam … the dam had no effect on this year’s floods, but the lack of information exchange before filling forced Sudan to make costly precautions with significant economic and social impact,” said Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas in a tweet.
Ethiopia sees the dam as key to its hopes of increased power generation and development, and says it is taking the interests of both downstream countries into account in its workings.
Abbas said that after the dam reached a particular level on July 20, it let out as much water as it received.
He noted that for the first time Sudan was able to utilize its own dams to lower the intensity of the yearly floods, which have historically devastated riverside farming communities.
The UN said earlier this year almost 70,000 people were affected by the rainy season across Sudan, the bulk of them in River Nile state, which lies downstream after the White and Blue Niles meet in Khartoum.
By this time last year, the UN had noted some 380,000 people had been affected.
Abbas noted historically large flows for the White Nile, reaching 120 to 130 million cubic meters this rainy season, compared with a typical 70 to 80 million.