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Ethiopia-Egypt: GERD, a feat of engineering

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: GERD: The dam of discord

By Marie Toulemonde, Olivier Caslin
Posted on Friday, 7 May 2021 18:38

Using 10 metric tonnes of concrete, standing at 175 metres tall and with a reservoir volume of 79 km3, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is an impressive feat of engineering – as well as a source of conflict between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan. We delve deeper into the intricacies with a visual explanation below.

This is part 3 of a 5-part series

As its name indicates, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will usher in a new era for Ethiopia and the entire Horn of Africa region.

With a hydropower production capacity of 6,450 megawatts (MW), or three times the Aswan dam’s, the GERD will be unrivalled on the continent outside of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Inga III, once the Congo River project is completed.

The new dam will ensure Ethiopia’s energy independence while exporting upwards of $800m worth of electricity annually to the country’s neighbours in Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan.

To tame the Blue Nile, a tributary of the Nile that carries about two-thirds of the river’s water volume, Ethiopia has poured close to $6bn into the project, or almost half the government’s annual budget.

Nearly 80% complete to date, the dam’s construction is expected to require a total of 10 metric tonnes of concrete to build a wall 175 metres high and around 2 km long. Its reservoir will have a volume of 79 km3 (approaching the Nile’s total annual flow of approximately 85 km3) and a surface area of more than 1,500 km2.

To be able to start producing electricity as rapidly as possible, Ethiopia is eyeing a seven-year filling timeline, whereas Egypt has a longer period of 12 to 20 years in mind. Some experts say that the GERD could reduce the river’s annual flow by 25% and prevent fertile silt from flowing to the Nile Delta.

LISTEN GERD: 1959 Egypt/Sudan treaty -‘The worst agreement Khartoum could have signed’

Under a 1959 water allocation agreement, Egypt’s share of water amounts to 55.5 billion cubic metres (bcm), while Sudan’s is 18.5 bcm, corresponding to about 90% of the river’s annual flow.

Some 85% of Egypt’s fresh water comes from sources in the Ethiopian Highlands.

 

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Also in this in Depth:

Egypt-Ethiopia: ‘Dam of Discord’ continues to pressure relations

The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile tributary has been poisoning the atmosphere between Cairo, Addis Ababa and Khartoum for more than 10 years. The situation has escalated to the point where a military conflict can no longer be easily dismissed.

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