Ethiopia has initiated a fresh round of discussions with Egypt and Sudan over a contentious mega-dam, just days after Addis Ababa said it had completed filling the reservouir along the Nile River.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has been a long-standing source of tension among the three nations as Cairo used a decade-old agreement to contest the move by Addis.

Both Egypt and Sudan have been deeply concerned that this colossal $4.2 billion dam would substantially diminish the share of Nile water that flows into their territories. Consequently, they had consistently called upon Addis Ababa to halt the filling until a mutual agreement could be reached, but this was ignored by Addis.

For several years, the three nations had been locked in contentious debates over the matter. However, a breakthrough came in July when Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed agreed to conclude a deal within a four-month timeframe starting in August.

Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during the visit to the Grand Renaissance Dam. Image: (PMO)
Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during the visit to the Grand Renaissance Dam. Image: (PMO).

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry on Twitter confirmed that the three nations had now embarked on a fresh round of discussions in Addis Ababa. The statement expressed Ethiopia’s commitment to achieving a negotiated and harmonious resolution through the ongoing trilateral process.

Egypt, in particular, has perceived the dam as a threat to the livelihood of its people as it relies on the Nile nearly entirely for its water needs.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam holds a major position in Ethiopia’s development plans. In February 2022, Addis Ababa proudly announced the commencement of electricity generation from the dam for the first time.

At full capacity, this enormous hydroelectric facility, measuring 1.8 kilometers in length and 145 meters in height, has the potential to generate over 5,000 megawatts of power. This would effectively double Ethiopia’s electricity production, providing access to power for a larger portion of its 120 million-strong population.

The stance of Sudan, a nation currently grappling with a civil conflict, has experienced fluctuations in recent years. The United Nations has issued a stark warning that Egypt could face a severe water crisis by 2025, and regions of Sudan, where the Darfur conflict had essentially revolved around water access, are increasingly susceptible to drought due to the effects of climate change.