Ethiopia’s Water Minister on Wednesday confirmed the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is filling, reported Reuters. The information comes just a day after talks with Sudan and Egypt on the giant Nile dam stalled.
Tripartite talks between the three nations to regulate the flow of water from the dam failed to reach agreement on Tuesday. The latest round of talks was held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The construction of the dam and the filling of the water go hand in hand,” Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele said in televised comments. “The filling of the dam doesn’t need to wait until the completion of the dam.”
He revealed that the water level had increased from 525 metres to 560 metres.
The Ethiopian water minister’s comments come after satellite images taken between 27 June and 12 July show a steady increase in the amount of water being held back by the dam. The reservoir behind the dam will fill naturally during Ethiopia’s rainy season, which began in June and lasts until September.
Ethiopia had always reiterated that it would begin to fill the dam in July regardless of whether an agreement was reached with Egypt and Sudan. Egypt, on the other hand, had warned it to delay while talks continued.
On Wednesday, Egypt requested urgent clarification from Ethiopia on the dam filling issue as confusion reigned over whether Addis Ababa had begun to fill the reservoir days after latest talks ended with no resolution.
Ethiopia sees the GERD as crucial for its economic growth. Once fully operational, the dam will become the largest hydro-electric plant in Africa, providing power to some 65 million Ethiopians, who currently lack regular electricity supply. Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream and get almost all of its water from the Nile, fear the large dam will greatly reduce their share of water.