Satellite images show Ethiopian dam filling as talks fail

This satellite image taken Friday, June 26, 2020, shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile river in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia. (AP)
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Updated 15 July 2020

Satellite images show Ethiopian dam filling as talks fail

  • Egypt accuses Addis Ababa of ‘provocation’ during negotiations

CAIRO: New satellite images of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam show the megaproject’s reservoir beginning to fill, Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

William Davison, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, told the US news agency that the photos taken by the Sentinel-1 satellite can likely be explained by natural rainfall rather than deliberate measures taken by Addis Ababa.

The images come a day after the end of the latest round of negotiations sponsored by the African Union between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. The talks lasted for 11 days without reaching agreement.

Negotiations involved water and irrigation ministers from the three countries, along with observers and delegates from the African Union.

Discussions between the technical and legal committees were reviewed, which reflected disagreements on the rules for filling and operating the dam.

“Egypt has been involved in the Renaissance Dam negotiations with a willingness to reach an agreement. It is showing flexibility until a fair and equitable agreement which meets the interests of the three negotiating countries is reached,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said.

“Unfortunately, there have been no developments in the negotiations to reach an agreement. Egypt will work with a clear vision to reach an agreement that guarantees development in the three countries. The UN Security Council is keeping up with the results of the negotiations. We have confidence in its mechanisms to maintain international peace and security,” he added.

The previous round of talks between the three countries — held from June 9 till June 17 — failed to produce an accord after Ethiopia refused to enter a legally binding agreement, announcing that it will begin filling the dam in July with or without the approval of Egypt and Sudan, the two downstream countries.

“The results of what is being negotiated about the filling of the dam will appear in the coming days,” said Mohamed El-Sebai, spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation.

“With an increase in the flood rate, we will be able to know the story behind the images. There are mechanisms to tell if Ethiopia started filling the dam lake by looking at the amount of water coming to Egypt,” he said.

“The water year in Egypt begins at the start of August. Then we can identify the extent of Ethiopia filling the reservoir of the dam,” El-Sebai added.

Alaa El-Zawahiri, a member of the negotiating committee for the dam, told Arab News there will be a meeting at the presidential level to discuss the dispute soon.

He claims that Ethiopia has a plan to take control of the waters of the Nile from Egypt.

“Ethiopia uses emotions and delusion to provoke feelings against Egypt during negotiations,” he said.

Egyptian water expert Abbas Sharaqi said there is a path to agreement if the parties show flexibility, provided that Ethiopia does not fill the dam or cancel talks.

He said that negotiations will continue through the Security Council, but if Ethiopia starts to fill the dam, Egypt will consider it an aggression and may forcefully stop the filling and the construction of the dam until a fair and just agreement is reached.

Mohamed Nasr Allam, former Egyptian minister of irrigation and water resources, questioned the intentions of the African Union.

He said he will try to end international intervention in the crisis and will work “in every way to prevent the Security Council from interfering.”

He added: “The African Union will also negotiate with and pressure Sudan and others to change positions in an attempt to isolate Egypt and impose its solutions on it, something that I fear will happen in the coming period.”

Medical reservists to the rescue as Manila steps up virus battle

Updated 11 August 2020

Medical reservists to the rescue as Manila steps up virus battle

  • 3,000 personnel face call-up amid warnings country is losing COVID-19 war

MANILA: The Philippines is considering calling up more than 3,000 military medical reservists to help in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

The move comes as a rising number of infections threatens to overwhelm the country’s struggling health care system. 

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that a list had been drawn up of of 380 doctors and nurses, as well as 3,000 reservists with medical training who can be mobilized to help COVID-19 patients.

In a televised interview, Lorenzana said talks on calling up medical reservists took place at a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte last week after warnings of a shortage of medical personnel in Manila.

He said the message from medical groups that staff were overwhelmed and exhausted sent a “distress signal to the nation.”

Hospital staff also warned that the country “is waging a losing battle against COVID-19.”

“We have medical reserves. All we have to do is find out where they are now,” Lorenzana said.

“As of last week we were able to get about 380 doctors and nurses, plus about 3,000 other medical personnel, including medical aides and medical technicians,” he added.

If the plan to mobilize medical reservists is pushed through, the defense department will deploy them to help in Manila and other areas with high rates of COVID-19 infection.

The defense secretary said he is confident many of the reservists will respond once they are called to duty.

Asked if the defense department has a timetable for their deployment, Lorenzana said: “We have to process them, but first we will have to get a go signal from the Department of Budget and Management because we need money to mobilize these people. We have to pay their salary and allowances.

“I have directed the Philippines armed forces to estimate how much we money we need,” he said.

Last week Duterte ordered a strict quarantine to be reimposed in capital and surrounding provinces until Aug. 18.

He said this will give the government time to refine its pandemic strategies and offer a “breather” to exhausted front-line workers.

Under the curfew people will be restricted to essential travel and mass transport will be closed.

As of Monday, the Philippines had recorded 129,913 COVID-19 cases, with 67,673 recoveries and 2,270 deaths.