National Interest Not Compromised by GERD Deal: Ethiopian Officials

By Staff reporter    

GERD-GeduJanuary 17, 2020 ( -- Ethiopia did not give away its national interest during the latest US-mediated talks in connection to the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), said Ethiopian Officials.

Given the fragile political situation in Ethiopia today, there have been persistent doubts by some Ethiopian observers as to whether the government has the capacity to conclude a fair agreement with Egypt, including the latest one which has raised several questions.

Briefing journalists after the tripartite talks in Washington DC, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew said the latest talks ended in favor of Ethiopia as opposed to information trending in social media.

The agreement was reached without compromising the national interest of Ethiopia and causing significant harm on downstream countries, he said

Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy Dr. Engineer Sileshi Bekele said the joint statement released by the US Secretary of Treasury is subject to change depending on final agreement.

The negotiations ended with no diminishing return to Ethiopia, said Sileshi, adding observers have had nothing role but watching, listening and taking notes.

Based on the latest technical agreement, the filling time of the GERD will take place during the rainy season and that created concern among the Ethiopian public over how soon the dam can ramp up operations.

Sileshi said the filling period of the dam will be done in 4 to 7 years even though it is to be carried out in July and August during which time Nile river surges both in volume and intensity.

Dr. Engineer Sileshi said the GERD can retain as much water during the rainy season because there is excess water during those months depending on the climatic conditions in the northern, central and western parts of the country.

He said the GERD’s reservoir will hold 49 billion cubic meters of water and that can be retained in four years when there is accelerated water flow or it will take up to seven years when low water volume of the Nile.  

The very idea of building GERD is to retain excess water that otherwise could be wasted during rainy seasons. Ethiopia will use the retained water for power generation regularly through the year and then will release to downstream countries in a regulated manner -- so that Sudan and Egypt will get a reasonable volume of water throughout the year, the minister said.

In the latest talks, Ethiopia agreed to release 37 billion cubic meters of water to downstream countries during dry seasons. The volume of water Ethiopia should release during the dry season was a contentious issue as Egypt demanded to get 40 billion cubic meters of water and  Ethiopia had proposed 35 billion cubic meters of water.

According to the minster, two turbines will be operational by the end of this year after the GERD holds 4.95 billion cubic meters of water. These two turbines will be fixed at 545 meters above sea level and begin operations while the height of the water in the dam reaches 565 meters above sea level.

The remaining turbines will be fixed at 545 meters above sea level and will be operational as the water level in the dam reaches at least 595 above sea level.

As per the latest agreement, Ethiopia will release at least 31 billion cubic meters of water to downstream countries during times of severe drought.

Legal experts of the three countries will develop the technical agreement reached by water ministers of the three countries into a legal document which will be a table for discussion by their foreign ministers on January 28 and 29, 2020, in Washington DC.

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