Ethiopia and Egypt are arguing over a dam

The second round of trilateral negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) ended on Sunday (24 September) without a breakthrough.

GERD, Africa’s largest dam, sits on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. At full capacity, the $5B hydro-electric project is projected to double Ethiopia’s output of electricity (half the country’s 120 million people still lack access to electricity).

But Egypt (where 97% of folks rely on the Nile for drinking water) fears the dam will reduce the share of water it gets. It’s repeatedly asked Ethiopia to hit pause until the three neighbours can figure out an arrangement.

Intrigue’s take: This dispute goes to the heart of sovereignty: Ethiopia says it ought to be able to decide what happens within its own borders. Egypt says the Nile is a shared resource, so decisions should be shared, too.

The clock is ticking: the UN says Egypt could run out of water by 2025. And the stakes are high: Sudan’s instability has partly been driven by water scarcity.

Also worth noting:

  • Some researchers say GERD could be a net-positive for Nile water levels, due to less evaporation at Egypt’s Lake Nasser.
  • According to a 1959 agreement that didn’t involve Ethiopia, Egypt has rights to 75% of the Nile’s water and Sudan has the remainder.
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