Ethiopia begins filling dam after talks with Egypt

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ADDIS-ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia has started to fill the reservoir behind the Ethiopian Great Renaissance Dam, its water minister announced Wednesday after talks with Sudan and Egypt over the hydroelectric project giant Blue Nile in neutral.

FILE PHOTO: A distributed satellite image shows a close-up view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance (GERD) dam and the Blue Nile in Ethiopia on July 12, 2020. Satellite image © 2020 Maxar Technologies via REUTERS

Seleshi Bekele’s comments did not address the question of whether Ethiopia had closed the doors to the dam or the role of the recent torrential downpours in filling the area behind. The minister and his spokesperson did not return to seek clarification.

The project has raised fears in Egypt that the already limited waters of the Nile, on which 100 million people depend, will be even more limited. The Blue Nile is a tributary of the Nile from which Egypt obtains 90% of its fresh water.

Egypt has asked Ethiopia for urgent clarification to find out if it has started filling the roadblock, the foreign ministry said.

“Building the dam and filling the water go hand in hand,” Seleshi said in television comments, a transcript of which was provided to Reuters by his spokesperson. “The filling of the dam does not need to wait for the end of the dam.”

The water level rose from 525 meters to 560 meters, he said.

The $ 4 billion dam, when completed, will have an installed capacity of 6,450 megawatts – more than double Ethiopia’s existing capacity – and is the centerpiece of the country’s bid to become the largest exporter of electricity from Africa.

The dam is under construction about 15 km (9 miles) from the border with Sudan. Sudan and Egypt sought a legally binding agreement before the dam was filled.

The Sudanese Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources said it had been asked to investigate after satellite images appeared to show the filling of the dam.

“It was evident from the flowmeters at the al-Deim border crossing with Ethiopia that there was a drop in water levels, equivalent to 90 million cubic meters per day, confirming the closure of the gates of the Renaissance Dam, “he said. in a report.

Sudan rejects any unilateral action taken by a party as negotiation efforts continue, he added.

On Tuesday, talks between the three countries to regulate the water flow from the dam failed to reach an agreement.

Additional reports by Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum; Writing by George Obulutsa and Katharine Houreld; Editing by John Stonestreet, Nick Macfie and Giles Elgood

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