Ethiopia’s filling of GERD gets muted response

Saturday July 24 2021
Ethiopia began filling GERD in July last year

Ethiopia began filling GERD in July last year and had attained its first phase target by filling 4.9 billion cubic metres. PHOTO | FILE


Ethiopia’s completion of the second phase filling of the Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) last week was not met with huge protests from Sudan and Egypt, contrary to expectations. This could be because it is the rainy season, meaning Sudan, which traditionally faces floods, did not experience a significant drop in the waters reaching its river banks.

Recently, Addis Ababa said that it had completed the second controversial dam filling.

“The second filling of the Renaissance dam has been completed and the water is overflowing,” said Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia's Minister for Water, Irrigation and Energy, adding “The GERD reservoir reached the top water level. Currently, the incoming flow passes through both bottom outlets and overtopping.”

Ethiopia initially planned to fill the dam during the July and August rainy seasons, but completed the task faster than expected, in only two weeks, with a major filling done overnight. Egyptians who had earlier this month taken the matter to the UN Security Council did not immediately react, although influential analysts were quoted in Egyptian media doubting Ethiopia’s narrative that the second filling had been completed.

Sudan had earlier feared a drop in its waters at the al-Rusaires Dam reservoir when the filling began in Ethiopia. Heavy rains have, however, meant that flooding was expected in both Ethiopia and Sudan during this time of year.

“Although Ethiopia started the second filling of the GERD, the daily water amounts are stable,” Hamid Mohamed Ali, director of Sudan's Al-Rusaires Dam, said in a statement. The dam, he said, had not reported a drop in levels since April, mostly due to a regular flow from the source.


The Ethiopian minister attributed the heavy rainfalls to the early filling of the dam.

Ethiopia began filling GERD in July last year and had attained its first phase target by filling 4.9 billion cubic metres. The new filling completed on last week on Monday added another 13.5 cubic metres.

Ethiopia now says it could start electricity generation with the available water. The multi-billion-dollar project has been a source of dispute since Ethiopia broke ground on the project in 2011.

Egypt and Sudan fear that the $5 billion dam project, which would be Africa's largest, would eventually diminish their historic water share.

Negotiations which had been ongoing under the auspices of the African Union over the technical and legal issues related to the filling and operation of the GERD failed to yield a three-way agreement.