The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or as it’s better known The GERD, is a major hydroelectric project that is being built on the Blue Nile river near the border with Sudan. The dam promises to bring a much needed source of electricity to the people of Ethiopia. The dam sits on what is the main tributary to the Nile River. Egypt, which is downstream from Ethiopia, has been vehemently opposed to its construction. Egypt contends that the dam will restrict water flow and undermine its rights to the Nile waters. Sudan has also raised objections to the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
On the line with me to explain the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is Mekdelawit Messay. She is an independent water science researcher based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We kick off discussing the history of this dam project and its significance to the economic development in Ethiopia. She then explains some of the key sticking points that are preventing Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan from reaching a diplomatic agreement over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and water rights.
The story of the GERD is of profound regional significance for East Africa and Egypt. What for Ethiopia is a major infrastructure project key to its economic development is to Egypt a potential threat to livelihoods that depend on the Nile river. But the conflict over the Ethiopian dam project also has important international dimensions. For one, the United States has sought to play a diplomatic role in resolving this crisis–though has done so rather clumsily. More broadly, these kinds of disputes between countries that share the same water source could become more and more common in the coming years due to climate change. How this particular dispute is resolved could have big implications for future conflicts over water.
If you have 30 minutes and want a deeper understanding of the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, have a listen