Ethiopia has started filling a giant hydroelectric dam it is building on the Blue Nile, its water minister, Seleshi Bekele; is quoted to have said on Wednesday.
Protracted talks with Sudan and Egypt over the structure and its impact on water supply to the two other countries has hit a deadlock.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam or GERD project is the centrepiece of Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter.
“The dam filling is now underway in conformity with the normal process of the construction” of the dam, state affiliated FBC quoted him as having told EBC, the state broadcaster.
The Minister in a tweet later on Wednesday downplayed the filling report suggesting that the water inflows were more a natural occurance from weather patterns.
“The GERD construction has reached level 560m compared to level 525m last year this time. The inflow into the reservoir due to heavy rain fall and runoff exceeded the outflow and created natural pooling.This continues until overflow is triggered soon.
“The dam is yet to be constructed to level 640m in the following years. In fact, predicted heavy rain this year is expected to cause huge flooding in the region,” he added.
Cairo was anxious to secure a legally binding deal that would guarantee minimum flows and a mechanism for resolving disputes before the dam started filling.
Relying on the Nile for more than 90 percent of its water supply and already facing high water stress, Egypt fears a devastating impact on its population of 100 million.
Sudan stands to benefit from the project through access to cheap electricity and reduced flooding, but it has also raised fears over the dam’s operation.
The latest round of negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the contentious dam ended with no agreement on Tuesday, according to Egyptian and Sudanese officials.
#Ethiopia seems to be playing everyone on GERD. 1st insist dam isn’t filling….then confirm it’s filling, then say Sat images of rise in waters “ are just natural “ and now claim reports on “ start of filling” are untrue . Meh!
— Emmanuel Igunza (@EmmanuelIgunza) July 15, 2020