Satellite images show Ethiopia dam reservoir swelling

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — New satellite imagery shows the reservoir behind Ethiopia’s disputed hydroelectric dam beginning to fill, but an analyst said it’s likely due to seasonal rains instead of government action.

The images emerge as Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan said the latest talks on the contentious project ended on Monday with no agreement. Ethiopia has said it would begin filling the reservoir of the USD4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam this month even without a deal, which would further escalate tensions.

But the swelling reservoir, captured in imagery on July 9 by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite, is likely a “natural backing-up of water behind the dam” during this rainy season, International Crisis Group analyst William Davison told The Associated Press (AP) yesterday.

“So far, to my understanding, there has been no official announcement from Ethiopia that all of the pieces of construction that are needed to be completed to close off all of the outlets and to begin impoundment of water into the reservoir” have occurred, Davison said.

But Ethiopia is on schedule for impoundment to begin in mid-July, he added, when the rainy season floods the Blue Nile.

Ethiopian officials did not immediately comment yesterday on the images.

Satellite image taken on July 12 shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile river in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia. PHOTO: AP