The Ethiopian government on Monday said it had fulfilled its second-year target for filling the mega Nile dam, a move that is likely to anger downstream countries Egypt and Sudan, reported Africa News.
“The second filling of the Renaissance dam has been completed and the water is overflowing,” Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopian minister for water, irrigation, and energy said on Monday.
“It means we have now the needed volume of the water to run the two turbines,” he wrote on Twitter.
Seleshi attributed the accelerated timeline to extreme rainfall in the Blue Nile basin. He said the dam can now run the first two of its 13 turbines.
“Intensive efforts are being made for the two turbines to generate energy,” the Ethiopian minister said, adding that early generation could be realized in the next few months.
The process of filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s (GERD) reservoir began last year, with Ethiopia announcing in July 2020 it had hit its target of 4.9 billion cubic meters.
Notably, the GERD has been at the center of a regional dispute ever since Ethiopia began working on the project in 2011.
Addis Ababa claims the $4bn hydropower project is crucial to its economic development and to provide power in a country where 65 million people are currently not connected to the power grid. Egypt and Sudan see the dam as a big threat due to their dependence on the Nile River for their water requirement.
Several rounds of talks held under the auspices of the African Union (AU) have failed to finalize a three-way agreement on the dam’s filling and operations. Cairo and Khartoum have demanded Addis Ababa cease filling the massive reservoir until an official deal is reached, but Ethiopia isn’t ready to stop at any cost.
Ethiopian officials say that filling the dam’s reservoir is a natural part of its construction process and cannot be ceased. Attempts made at reaching a deal have failed, raising concerns that the recent announcement could spark the ongoing tension between the three countries.