Ethiopia is expecting to start generating electricity from its $4bn Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) within 12 months, the country’s President Sahle-Work Zewde said on Monday. 

In a speech before the Ethiopian parliament, Zewde added that the country is working on finalising the second filling of the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa within the next 12 months.

“This year will be a year where the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will start generating power with the two turbines,” she said. 

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian authorities announced that it will be banning all flights over the GERD “for security reasons”. The Director-General of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, Wesenyeleh Hunegnaw, said that all flights have been banned to secure the dam as the Ethiopian president has pledged its inauguration within a year, Reuters reported. 

Last week, Ethiopia’s Air Force Commander Brigadier General Yilma Merdasa was quoted as saying that his country is “fully prepared to defend the dam from any attack.” Both his comments and the latest Ethiopian move banning flights over the dam could increase tensions with Egypt and Sudan over the Blue Nile dam.

Egypt fears it could threaten its 55bn cbm share of the River Nile’s water, although Ethiopia insists that the dam will not negatively affect Egypt’s interests. 

Both Egypt and Sudan also have other fears over the dam’s security and safety, due to its location in an active geologic region which puts it at a risk of earthquakes or mass floods.

On 10 July, satellite images showed around 200 million cbm of water pooled at the GERD reservoir site. The images came amid Egyptian fears that Ethiopia has started filling the reservoir which may affect its portion of water. Shortly afterwards, Ethiopia said it had finalised the first phase of the dam’s filling thanks to heavy rainfall.

Last week, Egypt‘s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called upon the international community to urge the parties involved in the GERD dispute to reach an agreement. Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, have failed to resolve the dispute, despite almost a decade of negotiations.  

During his speech before the 75th UN General Assembly, Al-Sisi said that negotiations should not continue forever as realities on the ground are changing.

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