Sudan blasts ‘unilateral’ move as Ethiopia dam fills

Sudan says River Nile water levels have dropped as a reservoir behind Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance dam has filled up, hitting out at “any unilateral actions taken by any party”.

Egypt has also demanded “quick official clarification” from Ethiopia.

Both Sudan and Egypt are downstream, and fear the large dam will greatly reduce their access to water.

Ethiopia sees the hydroelectric project as crucial for its economic growth and improving electricity supplies.

“If Ethiopia doesn’t fill the dam, it means Ethiopia has agreed to demolish the dam,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told parliament earlier this month.

But state media have backtracked after reports on Wednesday that suggested the dam was being filled deliberately, though without making it clear whether the dam’s gates had been closed.

On Thursday, Sudan’s foreign ministry quoted an Ethiopian official as saying Ethiopia was not filling the dam and had not closed its gates.

Earlier this week, talks between the three nations over the $4bn (£3.2bn) Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) ended without agreement, Ethiopian officials said, blaming “unchanged and additional and excessive demands of Egypt”.

Dialogue and a fair solution were needed, Sudan’s Information Minister Faisal Saleh was quoted as saying on Monday by Reuters.

Sudan said water levels are dropping by 90 million cubic metres (mcm) per day – equivalent to about 36,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools – at the al-Deim water station which borders Ethiopia.

Years of fraught negotiations have failed to reach a consensus on how and when to fill the reservoir, and how much water it should release.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has previously warned that filling and operating the dam without an agreement “that protects the downstream communities… would heighten tensions and could provoke crises and conflicts that further destabilise an already troubled region”.

A conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia, which are both US allies, would put millions of civilians at risk.

On Wednesday, its Water Minister Seleshi Bekele appeared to confirm the satellite images showing dam water levels rising, with state broadcaster EBC quoting him as saying it was “in line with the dam’s natural construction process”.

But hours later EBC backtracked, saying it apologised for “erroneous” reporting that incorrectly quoted the water minister as saying the process of filling the dam had started. -BBC

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