Ethiopia and Egypt are having another dispute over the construction and filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Both nations are disagreeing over the annual flow of a minimum of 40 billion cubic metres of water from the GERD so that the Aswan High Dam in Egypt is maintained at 165 meters above sea level and how to manage flows during droughts.
GERD which was announced in 2011, is designed to be the centerpiece of the country’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter, generating more than 6,000 megawatts. Following construction delays, Ethiopia has said GERD will start power production by the end of 2020 and be fully operational by 2022.
However, Egypt wants the GERD’s reservoir to release a higher volume of water than Ethiopia is willing to guarantee, among other disagreements but Ethiopia argues that Eqypt’s plan will prolong the filling of the GERD which is estimated to last two years if Ethiopia’s proposal of releasing only 35 billion cubic metres is adopted.
Both proposals agree that the first of five phases for filling the dam should take two years, at the end of which the GERD’s reservoir in Ethiopia would be filled to 595 metres and all the dam’s hydropower turbines would become operational.
But the Egyptian proposal says that if this first phase coincides with an extreme drought on Ethiopia’s Blue Nile, similar to that experienced in 1979-1980, then the two-year period should be extended to keep the water level at Egypt’s High Aswan Dam from dropping below 165 metres.
Egypt fears the dam will restrict the already stretched supplies from the Nile, from which it draws 90 percent of its freshwater which it uses for drinking, agriculture and industry. Egypt risks losing more than one million jobs and $1.8 billion in economic output annually, as well as electricity valued at $300 million.