Hydrologist: Ethiopia constructs GERD based on accepted principles

Professor of Hydrology at the Addis Ababa University in the areas of water resources and environmental engineering, Yilma Seleshi stressed that Ethiopia’s approach in utilizing the Abay River is based on the legally and politically accepted principle in using common river water resources in an equitable and reasonable manner without causing significant harm either in down or upstream countries.

The Professor, with experience in designing water resource management projects related to hydropower, irrigation and master plan developments at capacity of water resources engineer has published more than 15 scientific papers in areas of (1) Ethiopia rainfall variability, predictability and their impacts on water resources, (2) spatial hydrological variability,

(4) river water quality, and (5) rain water harvesting for water supply has applauded the current developments in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Professor Yilma has produced more than 29 hydrologic engineering design reports for various institutes in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Yemen. He has been working as independent consultant with position held Hydrologist since 1997; Chief Hydrologist; Deputy Team Leader, Hydrologist and Water Resource Engineer; Chief Hydrologist and Water Resources Engineer; Hydrologist / Hydraulic Engineer, Acting Director and Director of the Ethiopian Institute of Water Resources, Addis Ababa University since February 2013 – Nov 2014.

He has served as member of International Panel of Expert on Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam starting from May 2012- May 2013, representing the Ethiopian government in negotiation Nile water management in light of the GERD.

The Scientist stated that in any transboundary river, the recent legal or politically accepted principle is to use the common river water resource in an equitable and reasonable manner without causing significant harm either in down or upstream countries.

Their use should also be fair. Ethiopia is applying this fundamental principle which is internationally acknowledged. So, it is our resource too, we are using that for the benefit of our people, neighboring countries and at large. This is the approach we are using.

Currently, the GERD project has begun partial power generation, this is one of the world’s largest projects currently underway he noted, adding that after completion, it will be also the largest in Africa and the world in generating electricity.

The unique part of it is, all the construction activities are financed by Ethiopian people. Second, the construction is underway for the past 1l years under animosity unfortunately from our downstream neighbors Sudan and Egypt. They could have supported us; they could have shared the construction cost.

This did not happen. The success saw the day’s light through all these challenges. Of course, it made us stronger to complete this project step by step. It also creates a dynamic for the Ethiopian economy as the power generation when GERD is completed.

It would basically double Ethiopia’s capacity from the current 11,000 to 23-24,000 Gigawatt hours per year lyconsumption. So, industrialization, agro-industry, access to light and cooking purposes especially for rural people and facilitating the service sector to get sufficient electricity for their activity and so on. By and large, it will create a huge dynamic in Ethiopia’s Economy. This is also one of the major benefits.

Once you have a very good start up in the economy, the other activities of development follow suit. The intention of both the people and government of Ethiopia is to cooperate with the downstream countries.

So, GERD in particular for power generation and once it generates electricity, the water flows downstream. This does not mean that the upstream of GERD will not use it for irrigation and water supply. We are going to have another dam in the river.

But in all cases, the reasonable share of water will continue to flow to downstream countries until we make an agreement with the downstream countries on reasonable sharing of water. The will has been awaited for long , the reasonable share will continue to flow to the downstream countries. So, our use will also be accounted for by hydropower generation here, water supply needed upstream of GERD, huge 1700km2 area Abbay( Blue Nile) contains.

We have so many industrial water needs here, we have current and future irrigation demand, as we use and they use the Nile water. So, this adjustment will occur. So, there is no reason for Sudan and Egypt to fear as Ethiopia is controlling the flow of water at GERD but we will not use it for politics. It is a reason for collaboration, cooperation and common development.

This is our point of view and this is what we are doing and actually did. That is the point that we show in the inauguration of the project. The panel of experts, two from each country and four from international community have agreed and signed on and the construction was done following the international standard. About detail filling, we may discuss later on with the study.

After 2013, if you remember, a lot of discussions were carried out about the filling. We basically agreed not to fill within two to three years time but seven years on the average. It may be extended from four to five years and if it dries that would go to eight and nine years. “We basically agreed as brotherly countries on this. So, this major concern has been settled.

With regard to the dam, their concerns are the above two. Their concern is trying to connect the issue of the dam with water allocation which is not acceptable by Ethiopia. We cannot assure them that they will receive the current flow of water as the upstream is going to use the water for irrigation and potable water supply.

The electricity we generate in GERD, let’s say after 15 years, is ready, that is obvious. We use the upstream water for irrigation, water supply, and energy generated from the grand renaissance dam for Ethiopia not to reduce the flow of water they receive, but what we are using is our share. Ethiopia is using its own share of water and this has to be clear.” As we are not talking about their share, giving zero share for Ethiopia is not unacceptable at all.

So, we continue as three brotherly countries adjusting all these elements. We start, continue to use, they also use a reasonable share. This was what the panel of experts actually solved.

The rule in this regard is very clear. There are countries who respect that rule. On the contrary, there are countries that violated the rule. Ethiopia, for instance, respected equitable and reasonable share of water without significant harm to the downstream countries. “I said fair use because Sudan and Egypt were completely utilizing the water without asking the permission of Ethiopia. Permission- in a sense is without considering Ethiopia’s future right. They are telling us you do not have water share.

This is not fair. Thus, Ethiopia did not make significant harm on the previous use nor should it do so in the current. The current use is already unacceptable for Ethiopia because Ethiopian people have been facing many difficulties. You know this year’s drought and many people are suffering and a number of cattle are dying. Our economy is also suffering meltdown. So, we have to develop the resources we have.

It is not oil. We need to develop water resources for energy generation and irrigation. We have more than two million hectares of land to be irrigated in Ethiopia’s Nile, our industries need water and our growing population needs potable water supply and so on.” If we want to develop all these, we need to have water. It is a very important aspect. We will continue to use that as we are generating 83 percent of Blue Nile.

The rule is not a game changing. We are talking about our rights guaranteed by the international law which I mentioned before. They have to accept and acknowledge Ethiopia’s needs. As they are very clear about their needs, they should also understand our needs.

As we always said, we will not significantly harm the water, not working to stop the water which they used for drinking or to develop their irrigation area. There are adjustments they could make to wasteful irrigation raised dramatically to higher technology for most irrigation and so on.

We can possibly work through collaboration and cooperation. They could irrigate high water consuming plants in Ethiopia through engaging in the investment sector and they could jointly make irrigation in million hectares.


The Ethiopian   4 March  2022

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