Egypt and Sudan both face water shortages due to the Ethiopian stance on the second filling of its controversial dam, according to Egyptian water expert Nader Nour Elddine.
This comes at a time when Ethiopia is adhering to the second filling, without coordinating with Egypt and Sudan, despite its pledge not to harm the two countries.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has also made statements in which he confirmed that the filling will take place on schedule next July. This comes amid widespread concerns about the extent of the damage accruing on the two downstream countries.
Speaking during a press conference, Nour Elddine noted the possible repercussions should the second filling of the dam reservoir take place without coordination between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
He pointed out that “the second filling will be 13.5 billion cbm of water, bringing the total in the range of 18.5 billion cbm, after adding the five billion put in last year”.
Nour Elddine explained that “this amount is considered large, and Egypt and Sudan should coordinate before starting to reserve it this year, because of its repercussions, including the stopping of drinking water stations in eastern Sudan”.
“The same applies to the Rosires and Sennar dams for generating electricity in Sudan, which are expected to stop working due to the lack of sufficient water in the river, and therefore there must be coordination between Egypt and Sudan regarding how to reserve this large amount of water,” he added, “This will ensure that drinking water stations and power plants in eastern Sudan are not disrupted, in addition to the High Dam in Egypt.”
He noted that “the matter also depends on the period of time during which the water will be seized, whether for a month, two months, or several months throughout the four months of the flood”.
Nour Elddine stressed that “Ethiopia is determined to act alone without coordination with the two countries, hence the quantity, which will be reserved, estimated at 13.5 billion cbm, will be effective, which is equivalent to irrigating 3 million acres”.
Sudan is considered the most at risk of being if Ethiopia undertook the second filling of the dam’s reservoir. This was confirmed by Nour Elddine, as he referred to the extent of the impact on Sudan in the past year, and the suspension of drinking water stations for more than three weeks.
This took place just before flood water in the country was released, and land and homes were flooded in the following two months.
“The matter also depends on the period of time during which the water will be seized, whether for a month, two months, or several months throughout the four months of the flood,” Nour Elddine said, “Ethiopia is determined to act alone without coordination with the two countries, hence the quantity, estimated at 13.5 billion cbm, which is equivalent to irrigating 3 million acres.”
He noted that, whilst Sudan would be the first to be affected by the Ethiopian stance, Egypt is also affected by the shortage of water. If the quantity was 13.5 billion cbm, Egypt’s share of the shortfall would be approximately 9 billion cbm, equivalent to irrigation of 2 million acres, Nour Elddine said.
Several Gulf states have expressed solidarity for Egypt’s position on the dam following Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s statements on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The Egyptian President’s remarks came during a press conference at the Suez Canal on Tuesday.
“A compromise to Egypt’s water share is a red line, and our response [if our water share is affected] will affect the stability of the whole region,” he told reporters, noting the continued deadlock in the negotiations with Ethiopia over the GERD since January.
“No one can take a drop of water from Egypt,” Al-Sisi said, adding, “If it happens, there will be inconceivable instability in the region that no one could imagine.”
Egypt and Sudan are demanding that Ethiopia sign a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation policies of the GERD before it starts its second filling in July. From its side, Ethiopia says that it will go on with the second filling whether it reaches an agreement with the two Downstream countries or not.
The Ethiopian stance puts Egypt’s 100 million-plus population at risk, as the country is dependent on the Nile water for 95% of its renewable water needs.
The country fears that the massive $4.8bn Ethiopian hydropower project will significantly diminish its crucial water supply, which is already below scarcity level.
Meanwhile, Sudan fears the GERD will put the operation of its Roseires dam and the lives of about 20 million Sudanese citizens at “a very high risk” if an agreement regulating its operation and filling is not reached before the second filling.