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Abstract - Kevin Wheeler

Understanding and Managing New Risks on the Nile with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)

The hydro-politics of Nile Basin has reached a critical point, and the future management of the river is deeply uncertain. At the center of the debate is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) being constructed 20 km upstream of the Ethiopian-Sudanese border on the Blue Nile. The GERD offers the promise of substantial regional benefits, but also poses risks and evokes fears that are deeply imbedded in historical tensions. If risks to the downstream countries of Sudan and Egypt are to be minimized, the concepts of cooperation must translate into coordination of hydraulic infrastructure. This talk will frame the situation as three forthcoming ‘Eras’ including: 1) a phase of filling the large reservoir, 2) a potential ‘New Normal’ once the reservoir is filled, and 3) a multi-year drought that will inevitably challenge the countries to either cooperatively manage it or risk deepening the divisions between them.

The implications of these eras, along with potential approaches to manage them, will be described using a river and reservoir modelling tool that identifies risks and facilitates the identification of cooperative solutions to manage the river system. The focus of this work is to provide sound scientific knowledge to the inherently political process of transboundary negotiations.

Wheeler, K. G., Jeuland, M., Hall, J. W., Zagona, E., & Whittington, D. Understanding and managing new risks on the Nile with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Nat Commun 11, 5222 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19089-x