The Ethiopian Herald BY Deseta Gebrehiwot
On July 30, 2020, Sudan was hit by an unprecedented flood which resulted in a collapse of a dam that destroyed hundreds of homes while inundated others and experts argue that upstream dams like GERD would reduce the country’s vulnerability to flooding.
The recent incident is not the first tragedy that Sudan was hit by flooding; heavy downpour often hit the country between June and October, resulting in significant flooding.
The dam in Sudan’s Blue Nile state in the district of Bout, in the southeastern state, burst after heavy rain. The collapse of the small dam destroyed more than 600 homes while flooding others reported, AFP. Local media said the dam held five million cubic meters of water, used for both agriculture and drinking.
For years, Sudan has been facing over flooding endangering cities and towns. Semi-arid and arid countries are more prone to climatic variability than temperate ones. And, droughts and flooding in Sudan are most likely to be caused by climate change. Water infrastructure development of upstream countries including reservoir construction is the best alternative to mitigate extreme hydrological events, including the alteration of and flooding, most likely to be caused by climate change.
And, experts see the construction of the GERD in Ethiopia would help minimize the risk of flooding in Sudan by regulating the natural flow of the Abay River while also providing the country with regulated and sustainable minimum flow levels in the dry season.
Ethiopia’s dam will help mitigate Sudan’s risk and cost of flooding through managing the natural flow of the Nile River. That is why Ethiopia has been saying GERD could not be a bone of contention but a source of win-win cooperation.
Sudan faces an unprecedented flood every year due to the overflow of Blue Nile and heavy rain to which the combination of both bring huge socio-economic crises in the country. Usually, the excessive water flow in the Nile River triggers an intense flood in Khartoum. It claims lives, destroys livelihoods, says Fekahmed Negash, Chief Executive Manager of Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office (ENTRO).
The sole and permanent way to reduce and prevent flooding in Sudan is building dams and other infrastructural facilities upstream of the Nile, he opines, adding that, “the recent flooding though a small incident, we believe the fact that GERD started to hold water is helping the country to avoid more risk of flooding. And, when GERD comes to finalization and operates at full capacity, flooding will be reduced significantly in Sudan.”
“Sudan could benefit much from GERD. And there is an enormous window of opportunities over the Nile if the countries work closely and in partnership.”
GERD will prevent flooding in Sudan’s dam of Rosaries. Upstream dams such as GERD will make a bigger difference as it holds more water during the rainy season ultimately reducing over flooding in Sudan, says Yilema Seleshi, Associate Professor of hydrology at Addis Ababa University.
“Sudanese experts also have studied the issue and are very much aware that building dams and similar infrastructural facilities in the Blue Nile will help reduce the risk of flooding in Sudan.”
Khartoum and other parts of Sudan are vulnerable to flooding and spend billions of USD every year for counter flooding works. However, if more dams are built in upstream countries, Sudan’s risk of flooding could go down and when GERD is completed, Sudan will receive regulated water flow from the Blue Nile. This will also help minimize the country’s cost of prevention works.
According to a study entitled Benefit of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project (GERDP) for Sudan and Egypt by Belachew Chekene, University of Huddersfield, UK, GERD will allow for regulated and sustainable minimum flow levels in the dry season. It will regulate the steady water flow throughout the year and it will avoid unexpected flooding to downstream countries.
Regarding energy and power production, GERD will allow underperforming downstream hydropower schemes to perform more effectively as there will be more reliable sediment-free and regular availability of water throughout the year. Indeed, GERD will benefit Sudan and Egypt immensely by delivering steady water flow throughout the year.
According to Abay and Yebaedan Tekareno, a book written by Selabat Manaye, Khartoum spends over 50 million USD to prevent flooding. Hence, a dam upstream means less cost to Sudan flood prevention works.
Besides reducing floods in the downstream countries, projects like GERD are also vital for connecting the region with the electric grid.
This week, Ethiopia announced that it saw an uptick on its power sales to the neighboring countries supplying power to Sudan worth 29.3 million USD. Its supply is expected to boost when GERD starts power generation and Sudan and Egypt will be on the top of the list to benefit from the project.