Final phase a milestone in controversial Blue Nile hydropower project long opposed by downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
Ethiopia has completed filling a massive, controversial dam on the Blue Nile for a second year, state media said, a move that will likely infuriate Egypt and Sudan, which have long opposed the project.
Addis Ababa has said the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a $4 billion hydroelectric project, is crucial to its economic development and to provide power.
But the project has raised concerns about water shortages and security in Egypt and Sudan, which also depend on the waters of the Nile.
Both countries have called for a binding legal settlement before dam operations begin, but mediation efforts have failed, raising concerns that tensions could rise after the most recent announcement.
“The second fill of the Renaissance dam has been completed and the water is overflowing,” Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s minister of water, irrigation and energy, said Monday.
“It means we now have the necessary amount of water to run the two turbines,” he said on Twitter.
Earlier on Monday, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) had said that “the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be completed in minutes”.
Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi reports from Addis Ababa that many Ethiopians are anxiously awaiting the completion of a turbine that will be powered by the dam in a country where 65 million people are currently not connected to the electricity grid.
“This is indeed a milestone and Ethiopians are excited about it. This is a project of national pride,” she said, adding that many Ethiopians had financially supported the dam by buying government bonds.
“But the downstream countries, Sudan and Egypt, are obviously very concerned about what this could do to other water flows to their own countries along the Nile,” she said.
Egypt considers the project a serious threat to its Nile water supply, on which it depends almost entirely. Sudan has also expressed concerns about the safety of the dam and the effect on its own dams and water stations.
Soi added that a buildup of Ethiopian troops around the dam, amid troop training in Sudan and Egypt, is “quite a cause for concern”.
In early July, the United Nations Security Council supported an African Union attempt to mediate in the dispute and called on all sides to resume talks.
The United States had previously warned that Ethiopia’s filling of the dam could increase tensions, while urging all sides to refrain from unilateral action.