Sudan: at Roseires dam, fear of

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Tensions are rising between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia as the latter is determined to begin the second phase of filling the Great Renaissance Dam (GERD) upstream of the Blue Nile in July. In the absence of a binding agreement, Khartoum and Cairo sent a letter to the UN Security Council condemning a unilateral decision that would jeopardize “peace and stability in the region”. Sudan, on the front lines, fears for security and the operation of its own hydropower plants. And especially the Roseires dam, across the Blue Nile, in the southeastern part of the country, which is less than a hundred kilometers downstream from the Ethiopian dam. Without the exchange of hydrological information, the Sudanese laws in Roseire are questionable.

From our special correspondent in Blue Nile,

Millions of cubic meters of water rush into the turbines of the Roseires dam every day. In addition to electricity, its huge 105-kilometer-long reservoir supplies water to agricultural projects and drinking water stations to the capital.

Director Abdallah Abdelrahman does not hide his concerns. “We have no information about what will happen to us. There will be 74 billion cubic meters of water that will be stored up there, in Ethiopia, and we do not know how much water will pass here, or when or how. The variations in the water that will be released will affect our facilities. We need upstream hydrological information. How much will they keep? How much will they release? So that we can predict here in Roseires, he said.

Ethiopia closed the dam overnight last July. While the second filling phase is imminent, Sudanese engineers have therefore taken precautionary measures: “This year we did not release as much water as we should have. We decided to postpone the openings of our valves for a month to retain water. We adapt in anticipation of the complications to fill the Renaissance pond, adds Abdallah Abdelrahman.

Stopped negotiations

Sudan has always been quite favorable to the Ethiopian project. In the long run, it would allow it to get cheap electricity, but also to control its water resources and avoid severe floods. But in the short term, Khartoum fears for its security if Addis Ababa does not commit to sharing its technical information.

Mustafa al-Zubair is part of the Sudanese negotiating team that has just proposed a partial agreement. For him: “If there was a political will, they could give us this information very quickly. We could have signed a contract a long time ago. Today, Ethiopia faces internal challenges, but so do we. So we proposed a partial agreement so as not to start over from the beginning, but we set our terms. This agreement must be binding, otherwise it is useless, says Mustafa al-Zubair.

According to the Sudanese Ministry of Irrigation, 90% of the technical issues have already been resolved in previous negotiations. But Ethiopia refuses to commit to it on paper. Negotiations have halted and raised fears of an escalation in the region as Khartoum approaches Egypt.

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