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Thursday, 26 August 2021

GERD hasn’t hurt Sudan’s water supply just yet

Sudan says GERD filling had no impact on water supply, but preparing for the unknown was expensive and caused indirect socioeconomic damage: The second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s (GERD) reservoir, which Addis Ababa concluded late last month, “made no negative impact” on the annual seasonal flooding this year, but instead had a “major socioeconomic impact” in the absence of an agreement with Ethiopia on the filling and operation of the dam, Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas tweeted yesterday. Reuters also has the story.

What kind of damage are we talking? Ethiopia’s move to unilaterally fill the dam without reaching a binding agreement with Egypt and Sudan forced Khartoum to undertake “costly” crisis-management measures in case of destructive floods or water shortages, similar to last year when Ethiopia’s unilateral filling of GERD directly contributed to the severe Blue Nile flooding that caused mass devastation in Sudan.

On the bright side: Sudan was for the first time able to use its own dams to ease the intensity of the annual heavy floods — which have historically devastated communities across Sudan. Flooding in July saw an “unexpected” amount of water flowing from the White Nile — one of the river’s main tributaries, resulting in more flooding than country had faced over the past century. This year’s floods saw a record daily flow of 120-130 mn cubic metres per day, compared with previous summer seasons that varied between 70 and 80 mn cubic metres daily, he explained.

Still no word on the impact on Egypt: We haven’t heard anything from domestic policymakers on whether or not the GERD’s second filling had a direct impact on Egypt’s water supply. But the prospect of a water shortage has Egypt prioritising water resources projects, from the rehabilitation and lining of canals to seawater desalination plants, which President Abdel Fattah El Sisi had said would help offset the effect of the dam on Egypt’s water supply.

And GERD talks are still in limbo: Four days of talks in April between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in Kinshasa once again reached a dead-end after the three countries were unable to agree on how to proceed with negotiations. Egypt and Sudan spent much of last month lobbying the UN Security Council and global powers to take a more aggressive position towards Ethiopia and pressure it to return to the negotiating table with different mediators, but the council declined to condemn its decision to unilaterally fill the dam and called on all three countries to continue the current African Union-led process.

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