Ethiopia began filling Grand Renaissance, a giant hydroelectric power plant built on the Blue Nile, the water minister said on Wednesday after talks with Sudan and Egypt over the structure had stalled.
According to Ethiopia, the colossal dam offers a crucial opportunity to lift millions of its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty. The project is at the heart of Ethiopia’s efforts to become Africa’s largest energy exporter.
“The construction of the dam and the filling of the water go hand in hand,” said water minister Seleshi Bekele in comments that were broadcast on television. “Filling the dam doesn̵
The water level rose from 525 meters to 560 meters Bekele.
The move will likely lead to violent protests from Egypt and Sudan, which also depend on the waters of the Nile. There was no immediate response from Cairo or Khartoum.
Egypt informed the United Nations last month that it was facing an “existential threat” from the Blue Nile hydropower plant.
Egypt, which has more than 90 percent of its water supply on the Nile and is already exposed to high water stress, fears that it will have a devastating impact on its 100 million inhabitants.
In June, Secretary of State Sameh Shoukry warned that conflict could break out if the United Nations did not intervene as the dam endangered the lives of 150 million Egyptians and Sudanese.
Egypt and Ethiopia discuss the dispute over the Nildamm in the UN Security Council
Africa’s largest dam
Cairo sought to achieve a legally binding agreement that would guarantee minimum flows and a dispute settlement mechanism before the dam was put into operation.
Sudan will benefit from the project by accessing cheap electricity and reducing flooding, but has also raised fears about the dam’s operation.
The dam is being built 15 km from the Sudan border on the Blue Nile, the source of most of the waters of the Nile.
The final round of negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the controversial dam ended on Tuesday without agreement, according to Egyptian and Sudanese officials.
The failure raised modest hopes that the three countries could resolve their differences and sign an agreement to operate the dam before Ethiopia began to fill the dam $ 4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the largest in Africa.
Ethiopia says More than 60 percent of the country is dry land with no sustainable water resources, while Egypt has groundwater and access to seawater that could be desalinated.
Addis Ababa had previously agreed to store water in the dam’s huge reservoir at the beginning of the rainy season in July, when rains flooded the Blue Nile.