Development Digest: Water Wars: The Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)
The GERD is a developmental project located on the Blue Nile about 40 Km away from the Ethiopia-Sudan border. It was launched by Ethiopia in 2011 and upon completion, it is expected to be Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant with the capacity to generate up to 6,450 megawatts of electricity. The Dam is 70% complete and expected to be operational in 2022.⠀
The project has the potential to propel economic growth and development in Ethiopia in coming years. However, it has has led to heightened tension between the Nile States; particularly Egypt. ⠀
Why does Egypt care? ⠀
The dam poses an existential threat to Egypt. 95% of Egyptian land is desert, so it sources over 90 percent of its water supply from the Nile River, making the country vulnerable to any changes in the water flow upstream. ⠀⠀
The main bone of contention is the timeline and the rate for filling up the reservoir behind the dam. The construction of the dam is near completion and Ethiopia is ready to fill the reservoir. But, Egypt wants to extend the timeline because of concerns that it could lead to a drastic reduction in water supply in the North African country.
So, where does Sudan come in?
From a diplomatic and geographic standpoint, Sudan is caught in the middle of Ethiopia and Egypt’s dispute over the GERD project. Sudan stands to benefit from the GERD project via access to cheap electricity and reduced flooding, but it has also expressed concerns about how the dam would affect water supply. ⠀
The great challenge ahead for leaders of these Nile countries is drafting a mutually beneficial agreement that ensures Ethiopia’s developmental needs are met while protecting Egypt and Sudan’s water rights too. ⠀
Thank you for reading,