Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed kickstarted electricity production from the second turbine at its controversial mega-dam on the Blue Nile on Thursday, despite continuing objections by Egypt and Sudan over the project.
Abiy also confirmed that a third filling of the multi-billion dollar Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) was under way, a development that led Egypt last month to protest to the UN Security Council.
Thursday’s move came even though there is still no agreement between Ethiopia and its downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan about the GERD’s operations.
Abiy insisted that the third filling of the $4.2 billion dam — set to be the largest hydroelectric scheme in Africa — was not causing any water shortages for the two countries.
“We have repeatedly told downstream countries, especially Egypt and Sudan, that by generating power we’re developing our economy, as well as (our desire) to see our citizens who live in the dark see light,” he said.
There was “no aim to sideline and harm” those countries, he added.
Ethiopia first began generating electricity at the dam in February. Currently, the two turbines, out of a total of 13 at the dam, are generating 750 megawatts of electricity.
The GERD is ultimately expected to produce more than 5,000 megawatts, more than doubling Ethiopia’s current output.
Last month, Egypt wrote to the Security Council voicing its objections to Ethiopia’s plans to fill the dam for a third year without a three-way agreement.
Cairo and Khartoum fear it could threaten their access to vital Nile waters and have demanded a written agreement between on the dam’s filling and operation.
The process of filling the GERD’s vast reservoir, which has a total capacity of 74 billion cubic metres, began in 2020.
The new US envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, discussed the project during visits to both Ethiopia and Egypt last month, saying Washington was “actively engaged” in supporting efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the dispute.
The 145-metre (475-foot) high structure straddles the Blue Nile in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of western Ethiopia, near the border with Sudan.