Ethiopia completes third filling of Blue Nile mega-dam reservoir

Prime Minister Abiy said at the opening of the dam that the Nile was ‘a gift from God to the Ethiopians for us to use’.

Ethiopia has completed the third filling of a mega-dam reservoir on the Blue Nile, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has announced, a development that could further escalate tensions with downstream neighbors Egypt and Sudan.

The announcement on Friday came as Ethiopia started generating electricity from a second turbine at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

“As you can see behind me today, the third fill has been completed,” Abi said in images shown on state television from the dam site.

“Compared to last year, we have reached 600 meters (1,968 feet) which is 25 meters (82 feet) more than the previous fill,” he said.

He added, “Ethiopians are a gift from God.

The massive $4.2 billion dam has been at the center of a regional dispute since Ethiopia began the mega project in 2011.

Egypt and Sudan consider the dam a threat due to their dependence on Nile water, while Ethiopia sees the dam as essential for domestic electrification and development.

Egypt, which relies on the Nile for about 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water, last month condemned Ethiopia’s planned third filling of the dam at the UN Security Council.

Addis Ababa claims the dam is essential because it will enable electricity distribution to a population of more than 110 million. The Renaissance Dam is also central to Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s largest electricity exporter with a projected capacity of 6,500 MW.

Ethiopia first started generating electricity from the GERD in February. Currently, two of the total 13 turbines have a capacity to generate 750 MW of electricity.

Nile water

The Nile – which is one of the world’s longest rivers at nearly 6,000 km (3,700 miles) – is an essential source of water and electricity for dozens of countries in East Africa.

The river system of the Nile basin flows through 11 countries. The Blue Nile and the White Nile merge in Egypt and Sudan before flowing into the Mediterranean Sea.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned Ethiopia last year that his government would not tolerate any moves that would reduce Egypt’s share of the Nile’s waters.

Sudan hopes the project will regulate annual flooding but fears it could damage its dams without an agreement on Ethiopian dam operations.

The 145-meter (475-ft) high GERD spans the Blue Nile in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of western Ethiopia, near the border with Sudan.

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