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Ahram Online : Egypt will not tolerate Ethiopian dominance of Nile through GERD: Irrigation minister

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Sunday, 24 December 2023

Egypt's Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Hani Sewilam said Saturday that Addis Ababa is building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to exhert political dominance over the Nile River, in addition to the declared purpose of generating electricity.

Ahram Online 
Sunday 24 Dec 2023
Egypt's Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hani Sewilam speaks to "Al-Arabiya" TV channel, 23 December 2023. Photo: Screenshot from "Al-Arabiya" TV channel

The irrigation minister pointed to the dam’s excessively large reservoir, which exceeds what is required to generate the claimed amount of electricity declared over the past 12 years of negotiations.

“There are other hidden goals inferred from Ethiopia’s formulations during talks, its approach towards the dam, and the exaggerated size of the dam reservoir,” Sewilam said.

“The GERD will have a political usage, and Egypt will not allow Ethiopia's control and domination of the Nile waters,” he stressed.

Sewilam made his remarks to Al-Arabiya satellite channel in an interview that focused on the GERD, which Ethiopia has been building on the Blue Nile since 2011 for the stated purpose of generating up to 5,000 megawatts of electricity.

Trilateral talks tangle
The interview came after the latest GERD negotiation track between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia unsuccessfully concluded last week.

At the time, the irrigation ministry blamed Ethiopia for rejecting any proposed technical or legal solutions and backtracking on previous commitments, all while seeking a fait accompli on the ground.

During the interview, Sewilam elaborated, pointing out that Ethiopia had committed to respect Egyptian and Sudanese water needs during the four-month negotiating period that began in late summer and overlapped with the fourth filling of the GERD’s 74-billion-cubic-metre reservoir.

Nonetheless, during this period, Ethiopia did not adhere to its commitment and reserved 26 billion cubic metres (53 percent) of the Nile waters during the filling.

Sewilam revealed that all negotiating paths over the GERD had been halted and warned Ethiopia from taking any unilateral action that would harm Egypt's water security,

"We will take appropriate measures if Egypt’s water security is harmed," he stressed.

Refuting Ethiopian claims

The irrigation minister also addressed previous Ethiopian allegations that Egypt is relying on "unacceptable colonial-era agreements" during negotiations.

Sewilam affirmed that Egypt has four agreements on Nile waters with Ethiopia, none of which were signed when Ethiopia was a colony.

“I do not know where they got the term ‘colonial-era agreements,’” he said, adding that Ethiopia frequently uses this term to “mislead the global public opinion.”

The minister also indicated that Addis Ababa has not adhered to the "Declaration of Principles," and has not conducted the required economic, social, and environmental studies.

The minister also stated that Ethiopia tried to insert other future projects into the negotiations, noting that their “goal with these projects [dams] is to dominate the waters of the Nile.”

Sewilam refuted the claim that Egypt had agreed to the GERD’s filling schedule, stressing that the country would never approve an agreement that harms its water security.

In response to a question on whether the GERD could collapse, Sewilam said that Egypt has no information about the dam’s final design details and cannot assess its safety.

However, he did note that any such collapse would destroy Sudanese dams and affect over 150 million citizens in Egypt and Sudan.

For more than a decade of negotiations, Egypt and Sudan have been seeking a legally binding agreement governing the filling and operating of the dam that ensures their water security and own dams' safety along with the interests of Ethiopia. 

However, Ethiopia seeks to sign non-binding guidelines on the dam's filling and operation rules that can be modified at any time at its discretion.

Egypt, which relies mainly on the Nile for its water needs, fears that the dam will harm the country’s already scarce water supply.

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