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Rising Water Levels at Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Raises Tensions

The filling of a reservoir behind a mega-dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River, whether by nature or government action, is elevating tensions with Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia’s water, irrigation and energy minister was cited by a state-owned broadcaster as saying the filling of the reservoir had begun before the government concluding an agreement with its neighbors on water flows — comments that were reported by Bloomberg News and other media. The Ethiopian Broadcasting Corp later said there was a misinterpretation in its earlier report. “The inflow into the reservoir is due to heavy rainfall and runoff exceeded the outflow and created natural pooling,” the minister said on Twitter. The minister didn’t specify whether any of the dam’s gates had been closed and calls to his phone weren’t answered. Egypt has warned that unilateral action by Ethiopia to fill the 74-billion cubic-meter reservoir would threaten regional security, and its foreign ministry said it would seek urgent and official clarification of the minister’s remarks. Sudan’s irrigation ministry said flows on the Nile indicated that Ethiopia had closed the dam’s gate.