Although recent floods in Sudan have once again raised concerns over the impact on riparian states of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), officials in Khartoum said they are still determined to explore diplomatic solutions to settle the water dispute.
Recently as many as 50 people were reported dead in Sudan due to floods allegedly caused by the second filling of the dam.
Requesting anonymity, a Sudanese official said his country wants Ethiopia to sign a bilateral agreement and exchange data regularly, as unlike Egypt it is also looking forward to reaping the benefits of the dam.
Sudan had repeatedly urged Addis Ababa to exchange information to avoid losses downstream. Many powerhouses went out of service in the country over the past two months coupled with collapsing of health and environmental systems in the country.
Sudanese transitional government has stressed that it would not return to talks with Ethiopia under the African Union umbrella unless international mediation is guaranteed. Last month Egypt and Sudan had unsuccessfully tried to rope in the UN Security Council to put pressure on Ethiopia to stop the second filing of GERD.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Sudan’s Civil Defense Force spokesman Brig. Abdul Galil Abdul Raheem said thousands of houses have collapsed and thousands of people have been affected by the ongoing floods.
Misoon Ali, an expert in the Sudanese Irrigation Ministry said that water and power stations along the Blue Nile River have gone out of service due to GERD in July and August.
“Around 13 water stations went out of service last year, which caused a wide shortage of water, which was noticeable for the citizens of Khartoum and other cities,” she said.
Mitigation to reduce damage
She said that two water stations went out of service in July.
“We did a costly mitigation to reduce the damages that the government and individuals will face and suffer,” said Mustafa Hussein al-Zubair, Sudan's chief negotiator on the dam.
Sudan's Water Resources Minister Yasser Abas said his country has acted in both Jabal Awlia and Rosairsi dams to increase their height to reserve more water.
“We took many precautions including increasing the height of the Jabal Awlia dam for 1.5 meters and we reserve water, we also reserve 1 billion cubic meters of water in the Rosairs dam,” he said.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Zubair said that the first and second filling of the dam has been considered harmful for the Sudanese dams.
“Still the damage is expected although the filling is over. As per their announcement, they are supposed to fill unilaterally the amount of 13.5 billion cubic meters (BCM). But they could store only one-third of that, which in itself is a big risk,” he said.
Abbas also warned that the dam filling is threatening half of the Sudanese population living on the bank of the Blue Nile River.
The dam’s first filling last year had led to a wide power outage, shortage of water in the stations as well as unprecedented floods that destroyed crops, homes, and infrastructure across the banks of the river.
Drought and floods
Omda Shotal from Rossiaris village on the banks of the river said last year farmers in the region had experienced drought and then floods, because of the GERD filling.
“We witnessed unprecedented drought last year, especially in July and the bad matter is that the flood is also too high the matter put us in a very serious situation of thirsty, drought, and drowning later on,” he said.
Meanwhile, led by different regional and international mediators, diplomatic efforts are on to convince Ethiopia to stop its unilateral step or at least agree to sign a treaty deal with the two riparian states.
Official sources in Sudan said Ethiopia will not be able to store 13.5 BCM of water this year, as the country is experiencing instability and engaged in conflicts.
Wishing anonymity as the official is not authorized to talk to media told Anadolu Agency that Sudan is against any escalation of tensions with Ethiopia over the issue of the dam and is banking on exploring a diplomatic solution.
“Let us be frank that Sudan is against any escalation against Ethiopia especially as Cairo is pushing for political tension between the three countries. Sudan will stick with the diplomatic solution because the dam has a lot of benefits for Sudan if Ethiopia accepted the exchange of data and sign a binding agreement on that” he added.