By Okot Njoroge, in Nairobi
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi have agreed to accelerate talks to find a solution to the long-running dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
GERD is Africa’s largest hydropower project, with 6,000MW capacity, more than double Ethiopia’s current generating capacity, and will rank among the world’s 10 biggest hydropower plants.
Addis Ababa and Cairo say they are targeting the wrap up of an agreement before November 2023, bringing an end to years of bitter negotiations over how to share the Nile’s water.
Ethiopia will continue to fill the reservoir for the rest of 2023 but has pledged to do so in a way that doesn’t cause “significant harm” to Egypt and Sudan and continues to meet their water needs, according to a joint statement by Egypt and Ethiopia.
Ethiopia commenced electricity generation from one of the turbines of the vast dam on February 20, 2022. Located on the Blue Nile River in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of western Ethiopia, GERD is estimated to cost anything from $4Billion to $6.4Billion at full completion. it is largely financed by government bonds.
Ethiopia’s first phase filling of the dam was in July 2020, during which 4.9Billion cubic metres of water was collected. The second phase, in 2021, raised the volume to 18.4Billion cubic metres of water. The 74Billion cubic metre -capacity dam is expected to take five to seven years to fill.
Egypt, which lies downstream of the Nile, has maintained that GERD is a significant threat to its water supply.
Ethiopia argues that “the dam will be very beneficial to all … helping store Nile water, which can be used in the case of a drought,” President Ahmed said in a statement.