Ethiopian dam dispute reaches UN Security Council

Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam under construction on the River Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, September 26, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 June 2020

Ethiopian dam dispute reaches UN Security Council

  • Egypt filed a request to the Security Council on June 19 to discuss the issue and the body has set next Monday for the general session
  • Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the River Nile for its freshwater, fears the dam will diminish its water supply, which is already below scarcity level

CAIRO: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan has reached the UN Security Council after 10 years of negotiations failed to yield an agreement regulating the filling of the dam's reservoir.

Egypt filed a request to the Security Council on June 19 to discuss the issue and the body has set next Monday for the general session, which will be attended by its 15 member states.

Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the River Nile for its freshwater, fears the dam will diminish its water supply, which is already below scarcity level. Around 85 percent of the Nile water that reaches Egypt flows from Ethiopian highlands.

Ethiopia hopes the massive $4.8 billion megaproject on the Blue Nile, which would generate 6,000 megawatts when completed, will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter.

An informed source told Arab News that Egypt and Sudan would take part in the session. Ethiopia has not yet confirmed its participation. Its foreign minister, Gedu Andargachew, told the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur on Friday that his country intended to start filling the dam's reservoir despite the impasse.

“We will start filling the dam's lake during the coming months, even if there is no agreement between the three countries,” Andargachew said, adding that he hoped Ethiopia would reach an agreement with Egypt and Sudan.

Egypt’s former minister of water resources, Mohamed Nasr Allam, said that such a step and the upcoming Security Council session indicated that the council’s president was convinced by Egypt’s belief that Ethiopia’s unilateral action was unacceptable and created a state of instability that threatened international peace and security.

Allam said that Egypt had recently affirmed to the Security Council’s member states that it wanted to discuss the situation with the aim of reaching an agreement. 

He added that Egypt was counting on the stance of members after it submitted all the documents proving the soundness of its legal status and its “firm” rights on the issue.

In addition to the five permanent member states, the Security Council also includes Tunisia, South Africa, Niger, Indonesia, Vietnam, Germany, Estonia, the Dominican Republic, Belgium, and the Grenadine Islands.

Sudan had earlier called on the body to invite the leaders of the three countries to express their political will and commitment to resolving the outstanding issues. Sudan also called on it to persuade the three parties to adopt the comprehensive draft it had filed in the recent round of negotiations as a cornerstone of drafting and completing an agreement document that was satisfactory to all.

It said that there should be no unilateral measures, including starting filling the GERD prior to reaching an agreement, since these would have hazardous consequences on the dam’s operation and could endanger the lives of millions of people living upstream.

It warned that there was little time left to reach an agreement and urged all parties to work hard to reach an historic moment in the Nile Basin, and to make GERD a catalyst for cooperation instead of a reason for dispute and instability.

Hany Raslan, advisor to the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said in press statements that Egypt had agreed to the construction of GERD with the aim of generating power and that it was part of Ethiopia's development requisite.

Egypt has contacted the Security Council’s permanent member states to mobilize support for its stance. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has also contacted South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa and reiterated Egypt’s position on reaching a comprehensive agreement regarding the dam’s filling and its future management, and for Ethiopia to refrain from any unilateral action.

An African Union (AU) summit session was held on Friday. The AU comprises South Africa as president, Egypt as the rapporteur, and Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya as members. The summit aimed to discuss ways to resume trilateral negotiations.  

The Arab League called on Ethiopia on Tuesday to “refrain” from starting to fill the dam's reservoir unless it reached an agreement with Egypt and Sudan with regards to operating the dam it is constructing. The Arab foreign ministers adopted a resolution that Somalia and Djibouti had reservations about.


WHO acknowledges ‘evidence emerging’ of airborne spread of COVID-19

Updated 07 July 2020

WHO acknowledges ‘evidence emerging’ of airborne spread of COVID-19

  • WHO previously said the virus spreads through droplets expelled from the nose and mouth that quickly sink to the ground
  • New evidence shows floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in

GENEVA: The World Health Organization on Tuesday acknowledged “evidence emerging” of the airborne spread of the novel coronavirus, after a group of scientists urged the global body to update its guidance on how the respiratory disease passes between people.
“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19,” Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO, told a news briefing.
The WHO has previously said the virus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease spreads primarily through small droplets expelled from the nose and mouth of an infected person that quickly sink to the ground.
But in an open letter to the Geneva-based agency, published on Monday in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal, 239 scientists in 32 countries outlined evidence that they say shows floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in.
Because those smaller exhaled particles can linger in the air, the scientists are urging WHO to update its guidance.
Speaking at Tuesday’s briefing in Geneva, Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO’s technical lead for infection prevention and control, said there was evidence emerging of airborne transmission of the coronavirus, but that it was not definitive.
.”..The possibility of airborne transmission in public settings — especially in very specific conditions, crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings that have been described, cannot be ruled out,” she said.
“However, the evidence needs to be gathered and interpreted, and we continue to support this.”
Any change in the WHO’s assessment of risk of transmission could affect its current advice on keeping 1-meter (3.3 feet) of physical distancing. Governments, which rely on the agency for guidance policy, may also have to adjust public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
Van Kerkhove said the WHO would publish a scientific brief summarising the state of knowledge on modes of transmission of the virus in the coming days.
“A comprehensive package of interventions is required to be able to stop transmission,” she said.
“This includes not only physical distancing, it includes the use of masks where appropriate in certain settings, specifically where you can’t do physical distancing and especially for health care workers.”