Egypt protests to UN over Ethiopia's plans for third filling of giant Nile dam

Addis Ababa says it filled more than 18 billion cubic metres of water over the past two flood seasons

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and its reservoir. Its first turbine began operating in the spring. EPA
Powered by automated translation

Egypt said it had protested to the UN Security Council on Friday against Ethiopia's plans to fill the reservoir of its controversial Nile dam for a third year without agreement from downstream countries.

The multibillion dollar Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile is designed to be the largest hydroelectric scheme in Africa but it has been at the centre of a dispute with Egypt and Sudan since work began in 2011.

Egypt “received a message from the Ethiopian side on July 26, stating that Ethiopia would continue filling the reservoir of the Renaissance Dam during the current flood season”, a Foreign Ministry statement said.

In response, Egypt wrote to the UN Security Council “to register its objection and complete rejection of Ethiopia's continuation of filling the Renaissance Dam unilaterally without a deal”.

The ministry said that Egypt maintains its “legitimate right … to take all necessary measures to ensure and protect its national security, including against any risks that Ethiopia's unilateral measures may cause in the future”.

Ethiopia deems the dam essential for the electrification and development of Africa's second-most populous country.

But Cairo and Khartoum fear it could threaten their access to Nile waters and they have demanded a written agreement between the three countries on the filling and operation of the dam.

The $4.2 billion complex is expected to produce more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity, more than doubling Ethiopia's output. The first of 13 turbines began generating power in February.

The process of filling the vast reservoir began in 2020, with Ethiopia announcing in July that year it had hit its target of 4.9 billion cubic metres of water.

The reservoir's total capacity is 74bn cubic metres, and the target for 2021 was to add 13.5bn, a target Ethiopia said it had met.

The new US envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, was in Ethiopia on Friday for talks that were expected to include the dispute over the dam.

The envoy held talks in Egypt on Monday.

“We are engaged in supporting a diplomatic way forward under the African Union's auspices that arrives at an agreement that provides for the long-term needs of every citizen along the Nile,” he said.

Updated: June 13, 2023, 5:31 AM