Risk scenarios to come from GERD’s second fillling, Egypt Water Ministry

Beautiful Nile scenery shot in Aswan, Egypt. The Nile is the life’s blood of Egyptian life. 

Severe risk scenarios for GERD second filling highlighted by the Egypt Water Ministry 

By Rachel Brooks

May 20, 2021 

On May 19, Egypt Today reported a statement by Egypt’s Minister of Water to the DMC news channel. Water Minister Abd El Atty spoke regarding the ramifications a second filling of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam will have on Egypt and Sudan. He listed three scenarios. 

“Ethiopia’s filling is a shock because it is a kind of artificial drought to both of Cairo and Khartoum as Addis Ababa is planning to store 13 billion cubic meters of water,” the Minister said, as he was quoted by Egypt Today. 

Egypt has prepared its infrastructure for the fall out of this suddenly forced drought. 

Abd El Atty stated that a second-filling will pose a serious threat to Sudan. He then detailed the three problems Sudan faced as a direct result of the GERD’s first filling. These he used as the base of his analysis for the three scenarios of risk to follow the July scheduled second filling of the GERD. 

First, the initial filling of GERD created an artificial drought as a large proportion of Nile water was stored in Ethiopia. Second, this artificial drought was followed by a flood as Ethiopia released the water. The third problem came in November when Ethiopia failed to coordinate with Sudan before it opened GERD’s doors again. As a result, silt was released into Sudan’s drinking water. 

The first and second scenarios under the dam filling revolve around water levels under artificial drought. 

The flood level of the Nile could be between “high” and “medium” in the first and second scenarios. In either of these flood scenarios Egypt currently has the infrastructure to absorb the impact of “high” and “medium” flood levels. Egypt had to take into consideration the flood levels of the Nile would change their volumes to prevent a catastrophic failure of its dams. FEMA describes a catastrophic dam failure as “a type of failure characterized by the sudden, rapid, and uncontrolled release of impounded water” or “the likelihood of such a failure.” 

FEMA has stated that “no dam is flood-proof” and that the highest precautions toward failures and floods should be taken with all dams. FEMA noted that taking precautionary actions, even ahead of a potential risk, will save lives and property in the future. This institutional warning has reportedly not been heeded in the production of GERD, as Ethiopia becomes eager to use the dam to produce electricity and opportunity for millions of its citizens.  

Egypt’s Water Minister warned that, while Egypt was prepared for an artificial drought, a filling of GERD in the middle of a natural drought would have catastrophic implications for Cairo. Egypt has prepared “several high-cost projects,” to absorb the shocks promised by this scenario, said the Water Minister. 

Egypt has accused Ethiopia of taking unilateral steps forward that have not accommodated the preparations Egypt must make to survive the fall out of a dam filling.

Egypt has referred to Ethiopia’s unilateral measures as “unacceptable.”

Worries from within the Nile-dependent states increase as the full sum of risks from a GERD second filling are tallied. Al-Monitor reported on May 18 that Congo now moves to break the political deadlock surrounding the dam and its second filling. Talks have stalled for over a month. To revive them, Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who is the current chair of the Africa Union, had presented a new initiative on May 9. Tshisekedi’s initiative has been supported by both the United States and the European Union. Pressures increase as the deadline for Ethiopia’s filling grows nearer with more problems that can be resolved in a mere two months, states Al-Monitor. 

Today News Africa reported that the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, has warned that Africa is at “an inflection point” due to multiple crises. He made this remark following his visits with leaders in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, and Egypt.