A draft deal has been agreed between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) following a meeting in Washington, US, with the countries agreeing that the dam should be filled in stages.
Being built by Ethiopia on the River Nile, construction of the 6450MW project began in April 2011 and it is now 80% complete. The dam has been the subject of much debate, with Ethiopia keen for the dam to begin generating electricity as soon as possible, but Egypt has raised concerns that the dam would affect water supplies in the country if it is filled too quickly.
The preliminary agreement came during a meeting held 13-15 January which was attended by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Water Resources of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and their delegations, as well as the Secretary of the US Treasury and the President of the World Bank.
In a joint statement, the three countries said that it had noted six points, but that all are subject to final agreement:
- The filling of the GERD will be executed in stages and will be undertaken in an adaptive and cooperative manner that takes into consideration the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the potential impact of the filling on downstream reservoirs.
- Filling will take place during the wet season, generally from July to August, and will continue in September subject to certain conditions.
- The initial filling stage of the GERD will provide for the rapid achievement of a level of 595 meters above sea level (m.a.s.l.) and the early generation of electricity, while providing appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan in case of severe droughts during this stage.
- The subsequent stages of filling will be done according to a mechanism to be agreed that determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of the GERD that addresses the filling goals of Ethiopia and provides electricity generation and appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan during prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought.
- During long term operation, the GERD will operate according to a mechanism that determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of the GERD that provides electricity generation and appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan during prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought.
- An effective coordination mechanism and provisions for the settlement of disputes will be established.
The Ministers have now agreed to meet again in Washington from 28-29 January to finalize a comprehensive agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD. There will also be technical and legal discussions in the interim period.