Ethiopia is a country that heavily relies on its environmental and climate stability for the growth of its economy and the livelihood of its people. Many displacements have been the direct result of environmental catastrophes such as flooding and droughts- a serious concern for the Abiy administration. Motivated by the prospect of unifying the country and reducing the risk of internally displaced persons, Abiy’s administration plays a forefront role in the horn of Africa’s environmental action.
Green Legacy Project: A Greener Ethiopia
The Green Legacy Project has been a move led by Abiy Ahmed to mitigate the effects of climate change through national reforestation. The country is said to have lost 97% of native forests, but Abiy intends to turn back the clock and offset the harm. On July 29th, 2019, amidst the rainy season, Ethiopia broke the Guinness World Record for most trees planted in one day, totaling 353,633,660 trees within 12 hours. In one of his speeches, Abiy highlighted the government’s wishes for the country to plant 5 billion trees during the rainy season of 2020 and eventually totaling 20 billion trees over four years.
One of the most important factors that Abiy is looking for in his Green Legacy reforestation project is the sense of national unity in combating climate change. Since the country is extremely divided by ethnic backgrounds, Abiy also uses reforestation efforts as a way to unify its people. Abiy, through his Medemer ideology, hopes to slow down the devastating effects of floods and heavy rainfall while creating a social atmosphere that promotes national pride.
Environmental Impact of the GERD
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a symbol of national pride, regional economic prowess and modernization has become a priority for the Abiy administration. But the dam poses a risk to countries downstream from the GERD as the filling of the dam -if done too quickly- will limit the amount of water entering the neighboring countries, and will damage land and cultivation. Egypt, in particular, has remained the most vocal opposition to the filling of the dam, but Sudan has also expressed concern given the severe dangers this could pose for “20 million Sudanese living on the banks of the Nile”. To both Sudan and Egypt, working with Abiy and the Ethiopian government to commit to a deal on the fill rate of the dam has not been easy, but it will remain a priority given the severe environmental effects caused by the dam’s filling.
Additionally, the GERD poses a great concern for the Egyptian and Sudanese governments as it will not only limit the amount of water flowing downstream, but also deplete their control of the water of the Nile. If Ethiopia decides to fill the dam over three years, it could limit the water flow into Egypt by nearly half of what it was before the initiation of the dam. This would cause extreme issues for the Egyptian state in terms of water security, which will lead to devastating effects for the country’s farmers and livestock producers. Egypt currently already faces issues of water scarcity, and the filling of the dam will only exacerbate its arid climate. In the case of Sudan, the filling of the dam would limit the water entering the Merowe Dam and Roseires Dam, and would pose a great threat to the country’s electricity production.
As Sudan takes on the role to act as a regional mediator, the country seeks the help of the United Nations, African Union, United States of America and the European Union, in the hopes to foster a deal between the three countries. Though Egypt and Sudan previously stated that Ethiopia should not fill the dam without a deal, Abiy has largely ignored the call and wishes of his northern neighbors, and began to fill it in July 2020. By ignoring the environmental damages, Abiy has decided to prioritize the development of the country’s most beloved and hopeful project, over the creation of a multilateral agreement and the insurance of environmental stability.