The Renaissance Great Dam, a source of contention between Ethiopia and its neighbors, is ready to produce electricity after the success of the second phase of filling, an Ethiopian official told AFP on Monday.
“The first filling was carried out last year, the second is now completed and will be formally announced today or tomorrow”, assured AFP this official on condition of anonymity.
The amount of water stored in the dam, a source of tensions with Ethiopia’s neighbors downstream of the Nile, Sudan and Egypt, is now sufficient to ensure energy production, he added. .
In July 2020, Ethiopia announced that it had met its goal of storing 4.9 billion m3 of water and planned a second phase at 13.5 billion m3.
There is now enough water to put the first two of the thirteen turbines in the dam into operation, the Ethiopian official told AFP without giving a specific date for the start of electricity production.
The mega-dam, with a total capacity of 74 billion m3 of water, has been built since 2011 in north-western Ethiopia, near the border with Sudan, on the Blue Nile which joins the White Nile. in Khartoum to form the Nile.
With an electricity production capacity of 5,000 megawatts, revised downwards from the initial 6,500, it should become one of the largest hydroelectric dams in Africa.
Since the launch of the project, the Gerd has been a bone of contention between Ethiopia, which considers it essential for the development of its energy infrastructure, and the Sudan and theEgypt, both dependent on the Nile for their hydraulic resources.
Discussions initiated under the aegis ofAfrican Union (AU) did not allow the three countries to reach a tripartite agreement on the filling of the dam and on the modalities of operation of the water reservoirs.
Cairo and Khartoum had asked Addis Ababa to postpone filling the dam pending an agreement.
The United Nations Security Council seized the case on July 8 to negotiate a deal, but Ethiopia diplomatically rejected the move, ruling “regrettable to note that the progress of the negotiations has been slowed down and politicized”.
“Ethiopia has made it clear time and again that bringing the matter to the United Nations Security Council was and remains unnecessary and far from the Council’s mandate.”, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said last Tuesday.
Egypt claims a right on the Nile under a 1929 treaty which gives it a right of veto over any construction project on the river. Another 1959 treaty brought Egypt’s share of the waters of the Nile to 66%, and Sudan’s to 22%, according to Cairo.
Ethiopia is not a party to these treaties and therefore claims not to be bound by their provisions.
In 2010, the countries of the Nile Basin – with the exception of Egypt and Sudan – signed a “framework cooperation treaty” which authorized infrastructure projects on the river without Cairo’s consent.
The Ethiopian Minister of Water, Seleshi Bekele, welcomed Monday on Twitter the upcoming commissioning of the first Gerd turbines: “every effort is made to allow the two turbines to generate energy”.
The two turbines should be able to produce around 750 megawatts of electricity and thus increase Ethiopia’s national production by 20%, according to Addisu Lashitew, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
This is “a very significant amount”, he added, for a country which is frequently affected by power cuts and whose industrial production is sometimes subject to electricity rationing.
The completion of the dam is also a political priority for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, after months of war in Tigray, according to Costantinos Berhutesfa Costantinos, professor at Addis Ababa University.
“This is a unifying factor for the Ethiopians in the midst of all these ethnic conflicts and therefore it is important for the country and its leaders to complete the dam on schedule.”, according to him.
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