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Egypt Protests Ethiopian Dam

By Ani Rostomyan

Edited by Danika Suh

Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan all continue to fight over Ethiopia’s increased access to the Nile.

What is it?

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, began construction in April 2011. The GERD is located on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia. It will become Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam once completed. The entire cost for the project is 4.6 billion dollars. The dam is built with private funding and government bonds.

Ethiopia’s Side

When completed, the dam will provide an estimated 6,000 watts of electricity. Ethiopia will significantly benefit from the dam, as 65% of its population does not have electricity. The Ethiopian government also sees it as the answer to significantly decreasing poverty and reaching economic stability. They could sell any extra power to surrounding countries as well.

Egypt’s Side

The Blue Nile river feeds into the Nile River. This means that Ethiopia, per the dam, will have full control over the river. Egypt relies on the Nile for 90% of its water supply and fears that the dam could restrict water flow. Farmers use the river for travel, which could be impacted if the water level is too low, and a large decrease in water would affect irrigation. According to a treaty in 1929, Egypt and Sudan have rights to almost all of the Nile’s waters. The treaty also gave Egypt the right to veto any projects by countries upstream, that may affect Egypt’s share. However, when the dam was beginning construction, Egypt was too preoccupied with political turmoil to intervene, and Ethiopia built the dam without any consultation with Egypt.

Sudan’s Side

Sudan is in an awkward position. It is also concerned that the dam will constrict the flow of the Nile, but unlike Egypt, would receive some benefits upon the dam’s completion. Farmers need the Nile’s high water levels to irrigate and replenish the soil. So, the dam would greatly affect their agriculture. However, some benefits from the dam include a regulated flow of water year-round (less flooding), and power from the dam.


Negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan have been going on for years. In recent years, the U.S. has started acting as a mediator in the talks. Ethiopia is pushing for the dam to be filled in six years or less. Egypt fears that the process is too quick and that the water level will drop too steeply. They proposed a timetable of 12 to 21 years, which was rejected by Ethiopia for being too long. Recently, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister asked Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African President, to also help mediate the disputes. The African Union, the United States, and the World Bank (also a mediator) all have different ideas on how to encourage cooperation between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. The U.S. is now threatening withholding aid to Ethiopia if the talks don’t progress soon. Hopefully, the countries can soon come to an agreement.

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