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Agreement reached on filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam reservoir in Ethiopia

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has issued a joint statement that says the ministers of Foreign Affairs and Water Resources of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have “reach[ed] a comprehensive, cooperative, adaptive, sustainable, and mutually beneficial agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.”

The ministers and their delegations met with the Secretary of the Treasury and the President of the World Bank, participating as observers, in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 13-15, 2020.  The ministers noted the progress achieved in the four technical meetings among the ministers of Water Resources and their two prior meetings in Washington, D.C., and the outcomes of those meetings.

The ministers noted the following points, recognizing that all points are subject to final agreement:

  • The filling of the GERD will be executed in stages and will be undertaken in an adaptive and cooperative manner that takes into consideration the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the potential impact of the filling on downstream reservoirs.
  • Filling will take place during the wet season, generally from July to August, and will continue in September subject to certain conditions.
  • The initial filling stage of GERD will provide for the rapid achievement of a level of 595 meters above sea level (masl) and the early generation of electricity, while providing appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan in case of severe droughts during this stage. 
  • The subsequent stages of filling will be done according to a mechanism to be agreed that determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of GERD that addresses the filling goals of Ethiopia and provides electricity generation and appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan during prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought.
  • During long-term operation, GERD will operate according to a mechanism that determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of GERD that provides electricity generation and appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan during prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought.
  • An effective coordination mechanism and provisions for the settlement of disputes will be established.

The ministers agreed to meet again in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 28-29 to finalize a comprehensive agreement on the filling and operation of GERD, and that there will be technical and legal discussions in the interim period.

The ministers recognize the significant regional benefits that can result from concluding an agreement on GERD with respect to transboundary cooperation, regional development and economic integration that can result from the operation of GERD.  The ministers of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed the importance of transboundary cooperation in the development of the Blue Nile to improve the lives of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, and their shared commitment to concluding an agreement.

The 6,450-MW GERD project has long been controversial, with many deadlocks in previous negotiations.