EWAC Statement on Recent GERD/Nile Developments

The Ethiopian Waters Advisory Council (EWAC) would like to congratulate the people and
Government of Ethiopia for the successful completion of the third filling of the GERD and for
starting the generation of electricity from the 2 nd turbine. We also support the Ethiopian
Government’s reassuring words to the two downstream countries “We have repeatedly told
downstream countries, especially Egypt and Sudan, that by generating power we are only trying
to develop our economy and enable our citizens to see light at night,” a fundamental human
right. There was and is “no intention of harming any country” states the Ethiopian Government.
Indeed, its call for peaceful negotiation and amicable resolution of issues in a mutually beneficial
manner is encouraging if reciprocated by Egypt and Sudan. We continue to support principled
negotiation based on equitable, reasonable, and sustainable use creeds enshrined in the UN

EWAC also encourages the Government of Ethiopia to successfully complete the GERD
project as per its schedule. Any delay of the project’s implementation is bound to have severe
economic, political and social consequences. EWAC stands with and fully extends its support to
the people of Ethiopia as they shoulder the remaining challenges. Undoubtedly, the GERD
remains a show case to low-income countries in Africa and the rest of the world that we can
initiate a mega project like GERD and bring it to a successful completion with own resources.
Further, EWAC

1. Calls upon the Nile Riparian countries, most notably Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia to
start negotiations for a comprehensive Treaty toward the equitable and sustainable
use of the Nile waters. Indeed, equitable and sustainable use of waters is the norm and
global best practice. Almost all major transboundary rivers, i.e., the Amazon, Mekong,
Danube, etc. are today promoting equitable and sustainable use of water and instituting
payment for ecosystem services (PES) to ensure the maintenance of healthy ecosystems
that keep water flowing.

Nevertheless, a recent Joint press statement – 9th Association Council meeting between
Egypt and the European Union – Concilium (europa.eu) uncritically endorsed the
longstanding Egyptian Sudanese flawed call for “a mutually acceptable and binding
agreement on the filling and operations of the GERD.” This is not a helpful position to
advance the Nile agenda. The right call should be for a comprehensive and binding Nile
River treaty (on equitable and sustainable use, dam building, integrated ecosystem
management and conservation of the Nile waters), consistent with international conventions
and practices, along the lines adopted by the Danube River. Indeed, the Nile is the only
major transboundary river in the world without an all-inclusive treaty among the riparian
countries. The Nile is also the only river where two downstream countries claim 100% of the
water (see the 1959 Egypt-Sudan Agreement). Furthermore, the two downstream countries
have never consulted, let alone collaborated with the upper riparian countries, when they
built large dams such as Aswan by Egypt) and recently Merowi dam by Sudan.

As widely known, in 1999, the eleven Nile riparian countries together with Egypt and Sudan,
established the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), under the motto “One River, One People and One
Vision” to develop a comprehensive Nile treaty anchored in the equitable and sustainable
use of the Nile waters. Unfortunately, Egypt and Sudan refused to sign the Cooperation
Framework Agreement (CFA) that resulted from it. They, instead, suspended their NBI
membership, and essentially halted the negotiations for a Nile treaty after insisting on
maintaining the status quo that, contrary to international law and practices, shuts out the
upper riparian states from equitably developing their water resources.

2. Calls upon Egypt to share responsibility for conserving the integrity of Nile
ecosystem. Over 86 percent of the Nile waters originate in Ethiopia. But the Basin receives
an annual average rainfall of about 650 mm (26 in), some 10 percent of what Europe’s
Rhine Valley gets (www.reuters.com). Indeed, the upper Nile (Blue Nile, aka Abbay)
ecosystem is severely degraded. Climate change, population growth, displacement,
recurrent drought, and low technology intake have made the situation worse.

Egypt is widely credited blocking successive loan requests by the government of Ethiopia
from the African Development Bank for a dam project in Ethiopia in 1990.”
(www.reuters.com). Development projects that would have provided alternative livelihood
sources to upstream communities and helped conserve ecosystem integrity have been
denied funding including the GERD, where the investment cost burden of close to five billion
fell on the Ethiopian poor.

Recent reports on Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan talks show difficulties in reaching a mutual
understanding and agreement on the management of water flows during drought years
(short and extended). There must be a collective understanding and acceptance of the
mounting evidence that the Basin is highly vulnerable to climate risks compounded by
pervasive poverty, severe habitat loss, and technological deprivation. Restoring the
degraded ecosystem of the Blue Nile Basin and the creation of the Nile Green Belt should
be a priority agenda of not only Ethiopia but that of Egypt and Sudan. To this end, the
introduction of payment for ecosystem services (PES) should be a vital step forward.

3. Calls upon the global development community to finance water infrastructure
projects in Africa, including economically, socially, and environmentally feasible
large dams like the GERD. The GERD represents the collective might of the Ethiopian poor
and symbolizes an African renaissance. The Dam is perhaps the only major development
project of global significance undertaken by a least developed country totally from own
sources, although several studies have established the fact that GERD considerably
benefits Egypt and more so the Sudan. Suffice it here to mention the statement
(www.fanabc.com) of former Sudanese former Irrigation Minister, Dr. Osman Altoom
Hamed, who outlined the multiple benefits of GERD to the Sudan. Furthermore, the GERD
is a renewable energy generation scheme that enormously advances many targets of the
UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). We wish to call upon the EU, USA and multilateral organizations avail the necessary financial resources and technical support needed to complete the GERD and similar projects in Africa to enable it achieve its long
cherished goals of food and energy security, among others.