Authorities announced on Monday, October 5, that airspace around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) site in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region has been closed to civilian air traffic as a security measure. The geographic and flight level limits of the closure are currently unclear, but the head of Ethiopia's civil aviation authority reportedly suggested that the whole Benishangul-Gumuz region could be affected. Some local sources also suggested that exemptions for regional flights and a prior-permission overflight clearance system may be implemented but details are yet to be announced.
The airspace restrictions are unlikely to have a significant impact on commercial air travel in the region in the medium term, but there remains a possibility of disruptions to regional flight operations.
The GERD is Ethiopia's largest infrastructural development project, at the center of plans to become the continent's largest electricity exporter. However, the dam on the Blue Nile, around 15km (9 miles) from the border with Sudan, has caused increasing tensions with Sudan and Egypt over water rights and the filling of the 246 km (153 mile) long reservoir, which they fear could severely impact crucial freshwater resources.
Those in the Benishangul-Gumuz region are advised to monitor developments and heed any directives issued by local authorities.
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