EWAC Statement on Recent GERD/Nile Developments 

August 2022

The Ethiopian Waters Advisory Council (EWAC) would like to congratulate the people and Government of Ethiopia for the successful completion of the third filling of the GERD and for starting the generation of electricity from the 2nd turbine. We also support the Ethiopian Government’s reassuring words to the two downstream countries “We have repeatedly told downstream countries, especially Egypt and Sudan, that by generating power, we’re only trying to develop our economy and enable our citizens to see light at night,” a fundamental human right. There was and is “no intention of harming any country” states the Ethiopian Government. Indeed, its call for peaceful negotiation and amicable resolution of issues in a mutually beneficial manner is encouraging if reciprocated by Egypt and Sudan. We continue to support principled negotiation based on equitable, reasonable, and sustainable use creeds enshrined in the UN charter.

EWAC also encourages the Government of Ethiopia to complete the GERD project per its schedule. Any project implementation delay is bound to have severe economic, political and social consequences. EWAC stands with and fully supports the people of Ethiopia as they shoulder the remaining challenges. Undoubtedly, the GERD remains a showcase to developing countries in Africa and the rest of the world that they can initiate a mega project like GERD and bring it to a successful completion with their own resources.

Further, EWAC

  1. Calls upon the Nile Riparian countries, most notably Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, to start negotiations for a comprehensive Treaty toward the equitable and sustainable use of the Nile waters. Indeed, equitable and sustainable water use is the norm and global best practice. Almost all major transboundary rivers, i.e., the Amazon, Mekong and Volta basins, Danube, etc., are today promoting equitable and sustainable use of water and instituting payment for ecosystem services (PES) to ensure the maintenance of healthy ecosystems that keep the water flowing.

Nevertheless, a recent Joint press statement – 9th Association Council meeting between Egypt and the European Union – Concilium  uncritically endorsed the longstanding Egyptian Sudanese flawed call for “a mutually acceptable and binding agreement on the filling and operations of the GERD.” This is not a helpful position to advance the Nile agenda. The right call should be for a comprehensive and binding Nile River treaty (on equitable and sustainable use, dam building, integrated ecosystem management, and conservation of the Nile waters), consistent with international conventions and practices along the lines adopted by the Danube River. Indeed, the Nile is the only major transboundary river in the world without an all-inclusive treaty among the riparian countries. The Nile is the only river where two downstream countries claim 100% of the water (see the 1959 Egypt-Sudan Agreement). Furthermore, the two downstream countries have never consulted, let alone collaborated with the upper riparian countries when they built large dams such as Aswan High Dam in Egypt and Merowi High Dam in Sudan.

As widely known, in 1999, the eleven Nile riparian countries, including Egypt and Sudan, established the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), under the motto “One River, One People and One Vision” to develop a comprehensive Nile treaty anchored in the equitable and sustainable use of the Nile waters. Unfortunately, Egypt and Sudan refused to sign the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) that resulted from it. They, instead, suspended their NBI membership and essentially halted the negotiations for a Nile treaty after insisting on maintaining the status quo that, contrary to international law and practices, shuts out the upper riparian states from equitably developing their water resources.

2. Calls upon Egypt to share responsibility for restoring and conserving the upper Nile ecosystem. Over 86 percent of the Nile waters originate in Ethiopia. But the Basin receives an annual average rainfall of about 650 mm (26 in), some 10 percent of what Europe’s Rhine Valley gets (reuters.com). Indeed, the upper Nile (Blue Nile, aka Abbay) ecosystem is severely degraded. Climate change, population growth, displacement, recurrent drought, and low technology intake have worsened the situation.

Egypt is widely credited for blocking loan requests by the government of Ethiopia from international financial institutions for a dam project in Ethiopia in the 1990s” (reuters.com). Development projects that would have provided alternative livelihood sources to upstream communities and helped conserve ecosystem integrity have been denied funding including the GERD, where the investment cost burden of close to five billion fell on the Ethiopian poor.

Recent reports on Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan talks show difficulties in reaching a mutual understanding and agreement on managing water flows during drought years (short and extended). There must be a collective understanding and acceptance of the mounting evidence that the Basin is highly vulnerable to climate risks compounded by pervasive poverty, severe habitat loss, and technological deprivation. Restoring the degraded ecosystem of the Blue Nile Basin and the creation of the Nile Green Belt should be a priority agenda of not only Ethiopia but that of Egypt and Sudan. To this end, the introduction of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) should be a vital step forward.

3. Calls upon the global development community to finance water infrastructure projects in Africa, including economically, socially, and environmentally feasible large dams like the GERD. The GERD represents the collective might of the Ethiopian poor and symbolizes an African renaissance. The Dam is perhaps the only major development project of global significance undertaken by a least developed country totally from its own sources, although several studies have established the fact that GERD considerably benefits Egypt and more so the Sudan. Suffice it here to mention the statement of former Sudanese Irrigation Minister Dr. Osman Altoom Hamed, who outlined the multiple benefits of GERD to the Sudan. Furthermore, the GERD is a renewable energy generation scheme that enormously advances many UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) targets. We call upon the EU, the US, the UN System, and international finance and development organizations to avail the necessary financial resources and technical support to complete the GERD and similar projects and rehabilitate the damaged ecosystem in Ethiopia to enable it to achieve its long-cherished goals of food, energy, and livelihoods security.