Sudan govt: Ethiopia’s stance on Renaissance Dam hardened

According to Sudan’s Minister for Irrigation and Water Resources Yasir Abbas, Ethiopia no longer wishes to negotiate with Egypt and Sudan about the long term operation of the Renaissance Dam, but only the first filling of its reservoir.

The Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia when the reservoir started to fill in July, 2020 (Wikipedia / Hailefida)

According to Sudan’s Minister for Irrigation and Water Resources Yasir Abbas, Ethiopia no longer wishes to negotiate with Egypt and Sudan about the long term operation of the Renaissance Dam, but only the first filling of its reservoir.

Abbas has sent a message to the South African Foreign Minister. South Africa is chairing the African Union at this moment and tries to mediate. Last month, Ethiopia began filling the reservoir of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Abbas called Ethiopia’s new negotiating position “a serious development and a change of position that undermines the continuity of the negotiation process which is led by the African Union, and a violation of the Declaration of Principles which was signed by each of Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan on the 23rd of March 2015”. He fears that the dam will pose “serious environmental and social risks” and endanger “both the safety of millions of Sudanese living on the banks of the Blue Nile and the Roseires dam in Blue Nile state”.

Last week, the video conferencing negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia were postponed to this week, but they have not yet been resumed.

The location of the Renaissance
Dam in the Blue Nile near the
Ethiopian-Sudanese border
(Wikipedia Hel-hama)

Irrigation in Egypt

In the Ethiopian newspaper The Reporter, Manaya Ewunetu, technical director of a UK based engineering consulting firm, argued that Egypt and Sudan can both profit from the Renaissance Dam, provided that especially Egypt is willing to make adjustments in the way its uses Nile water for irrigation.

In his article ‘Egypt continues to mislead the international community about the GERD’ Ewunetu recalls that the colonial agreements on the Nile, which gives Egypt main ‘ownership’ of the river water, were never signed by Ethiopia. “Now most upstream countries have signed a Cooperative Framework Agreement, but Egypt and Sudan have refused to sign this binding document.”

He states that “Egypt wastes billions of cubic meters of the Nile water annually due to its ill manged, outdated and unsustainable irrigation systems, mainly by diverting Nile water by open surface water canals and subsequent evaporation”. Because of its desert climate, Egypt should in his view not grow watermelons, sugarcane and rice, which are Egypt’s main agricultural products and all require a lot of water. Egypt is one of Africa’s main rice exporters.

In Ewunetu’s view, Egypt should cover the open canals, resort to other crops, and adopt drip irrigation. Egypt’s tourism industry is also very water-consuming “because of the need to irrigate golf courses, fill swimming pools, fountains and artificial lakes, supply hotels and so on”. Egyptians use over seven times more water than Ethiopians.

Sudan can profit

According to Ewunetu Egypt and Sudan will benefit from the Renaissance Dam. It will create a constant water flow throughout the year, can prevent both droughts and floods downstream, and will hugely decrease deposition of sediments in Egyptian and Sudanese reservoirs. “According to publicly available studies, the Sennar Dam in Sudan has lost 71 percent of its original water storage capacity due to the sediment deposition over a span of 61 years. The Roseires Dam has lost 36 percent of its original water storage capacity in a span of 28 years.” The Renaissance Dam will also be a source of cheap electricity for Sudan, and stimulate regional economic integration.

He argues that Egypt should be willing to discuss its “outdated” Aswan Dam operation rules “based on the new reality on the ground which is the existence of GERD”.

Ewunetu states that neither the filling of the reservoir, nor the future operation of the Renaissance Dam will lead to a reduction of Nile water flowing to Sudan and Egypt. He blames “Egypt’s misinformation campaign” for stating as a fact that water shortages will be the inevitable result of the dam. Egyptian president Al Sisi even managed to persuade the US president Trump to reconsider aid to Ethiopia because of the Renaissance Dam.


The Renaissance Dam reservoir on July 20, 2020 (Wikipedia / Hailefida)


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