Why Sudan is wary of third filling of Ethiopia Nile dam

Thursday June 16 2022
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

An aerial view Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River in Guba, northwest Ethiopia. PHOTO | ADWA PICTURES | AFP


Sudan’s officials are expressing fear that another round of filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) without a formative agreement will hurt its safety holds on the Nile.

As the date for the third filling approaches, Sudan says now is the time for the three countries -- Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt -- to hammer out a long-term deal on how to share waters of the Nile, including safety standards for operations of dams erected on the river.

A brief by Sudan’s Ministry of Irrigation, seen by The EastAfrican, raises Khartoum’s concerns regarding the lack of safety precautions, including how the filling and release of water will affect its own smaller dam, the Roseires on the Nile.

Read: Sudan protests Ethiopia electricity production on Nile

The note says there should be an “urgent exchange of information” on how the countries can deal with emergencies that could arise during operations, including the possible bursting of smaller dams once water is released.

The ministry says Khartoum still believes that the negotiating process led by the African Union can reach its goals by supporting the three countries to sign “a friendly agreement,” but this should arise from a change in the mode of talks, including the succinct role of experts.


Sudan says there is a ready template in the 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, which should be the guiding principle for the resolution of disputes.

Some of the principles Sudan wants include fair and reasonable use, the obligation not to cause significant harm, notification and exchange of information, and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Ethiopia’s GERD, the biggest dam by its potential power generation of 6.4GW when complete, is being erected on the Blue Nile, the largest source of the Nile waters for Egypt and Sudan.

Addis Ababa has already filled it twice, in June 2020 and 2021, raising protests downstream of reduced water levels during the filling times.

This year, GERD is also expected to be filled in the final week of June, raising its levels to expand electricity generation that began earlier this year in February.

But Sudan and Egypt have argued that the absence of an agreement will make it difficult for countries to be assured of their share of water and adherence to safety standards. Ethiopia, on its part, argues that the dam will, in fact, prevent irregular flooding downstream, hence averting regular disasters.

Read: Nile dam: Sisi switches to diplomacy to win over EA

The dispute has remained unresolved for ten years during the construction of the dam, and a bid by the African Union to mediate since last year has yet to bear fruit.