Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam meeting ends without clear resolution

Days after officials seemed poised for a collaborative breakthrough, a trilateral summit between the foreign ministers of Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia has failed to resolve long-standing disputes over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The discussion began earlier this week in Sudan capital, Khartoum, and initially seemed to proceed well enough for the African country’s Ministry of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity to say the three would “work as one country” to see the massive 6,000 MW hydropower project through to its completion.

Speaking to reporters after the conclusion of a 16-hour meeting yesterday, Sudan Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said the parties “were not able to reach an agreement on a joint decision, and it’s a technical issue that we cannot discuss.”

The US$6.4 billion project, currently under construction on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia, has been controversial throughout its decades-long development due in large part to fear from downstream Egypt.

Egypt draws nearly all of its waters from the Nile River, which is fed almost entirely by the Blue Nile. The country has expressed concern that the rate at which Ethiopia wants to fill the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) might cause shortages.

Still, Sudan’s state-run news agency reported the attendees considered the meetings to be “constructive”, with further plans for more talks within 30 days.

Ethiopian Electric Power has been working to build GERD since 2011, with construction now reported as being about 60% complete. GERD is to feature the largest roller-compacted-concrete volume dam in the world at 10.2 million cubic meters. The reservoir it impounds will have a capacity of 70 cubic kilometers. Two powerhouses will contain 16 Francis turbine-generator units, and total annual generation is expected to be 15 TWh.

Hydro Group Managing Editor Elizabeth Ingram recently interviewed Ethiopian Electric Power CEO Azeb Asnake, who discussed the utility’s role in developing infrastructure for the region. Watch the interview here.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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