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Thursday, 20 May 2021

We’re getting serious about conserving water as GERD’s 2nd filling looms

The government will apply tighter water-saving measures to mitigate the impact of the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Ten TV (watch, runtime: 15:22). The Aswan High Dam reservoir should temporarily compensate for the shortage caused by the GERD’s filling, Shoukry said, and Egypt is “confident” the filling will not affect its water security. Egypt will not spare any effort in defending its water rights if Ethiopia takes unilateral action that harms its share of the Nile’s waters, the FM said, though escalations would be dependent on whether the filling materially negatively affects our water supply.

The government had announced a USD 50 bn water saving plan in 2019 focusing on promoting modern irrigation methods and the cultivation of non-water intensive crops. In the coming year, the government plans to expand irrigation networks, make better use of rainwater, and install utilities in unserved areas in its bid to reduce water waste, Water Resources Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ghanem told us last year. The government is also spending EGP 134.2 bn on building new desalination plants to address our water needs. We took a deep dive into Egypt’s water network in a 3 part series of Hardhat here, here and here.

Egypt is hoping for an expanded role for international observers once negotiations resume, Shoukry said, without specifying when that might be. Egypt is waiting on an invitation from the chair of the African Union for another trilateral meeting, Shoukry said, expressing the hope that the participation of other bodies will pave the way for more effective negotiations. The meeting could happen “in the next few days,” Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa suggested (watch, runtime: 2:55). As one of the proposed observers, the US said earlier this week that it supports the resumption of negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, but isn’t on board with Cairo and Khartoum’s proposition that it plays a mediating role.

The FM reiterated Egypt’s desire to reach a binding agreement with Sudan and Ethiopia on the filling and operation of the dam, though Addis Ababa has insisted it will proceed with the dam’s second filling during the rainy season this summer, with or without an agreement.

OTHER DIPLOMACY NEWS-

President Abdel Fatah El Sisi discussed potential investments in Egypt with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire during a meeting in Paris yesterday, according to an Ittihadiya statement. The two discussed possible cooperation on transportation, energy, water management and healthcare projects. Creating an attractive foreign investment climate in Egypt and continuing to support private sector participation were also on the agenda during President Sisi’s visit.

Separately, El Sisi also stressed the need to reach a binding resolution on GERD during a meeting with Sengalese president Macky Sall in Paris, according to an Ittihadiya statement. El Sisi and Sall also discussed diplomatic cooperation and infrastructure investment in Senegal.

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