News / Africa

Egypt Favors Pragmatic Solution to Nile Water Sharing, Says Analyst

Egypt’s military rulers seems to favor pragmatism in distribution of Nile waters, says analyst

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Yeheyes Wuhib

This is Part 3 of a 5-part series: Sharing the Nile's Waters
Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Water use issues have long been a source of contention among the Nile Basin countries, which disagree over the distribution of the river’s waters.

For decades, the allocation has been determined by an agreement that’s been re-negotiated recently and that could alter the historic water-sharing arrangements for the Nile.

The new accord, the Cooperative Framework Agreement, includes a provision that concerns Egypt. Unlike previous agreements, Article 14b does not recognize the historical right of Egypt to 55 billion cubic meters of Nile Water. Some say the country could lose billions of metric tons of water.

Egypt Favors Pragmatic Solution to Nile Water Sharing, Says Analyst
Egypt Favors Pragmatic Solution to Nile Water Sharing, Says Analyst

The previous agreements date back to the colonial era and were backed by Great Britain in order to develop Egypt’s agriculture.

They include those of 1902 and 1929, which gave Egypt access to and authority over most of the Nile. A 1959 treaty guaranteed Egypt nearly 56 billion cubic meters of water and Sudan 18.5 billion.

Sharing the water

Many say the question now is what Ethiopia and the rest of the upstream countries can do to assure Egypt that it will not suffer a reduction in water, which it needs in particular for agriculture and human consumption.

The need is to ensure that all Nile countries can share water in an equitable way.

“It is better to frame the question this way instead of locking it in the rhetoric of policy makers who like to refer to specific treaties that do not have validity in post-historic or legal terms,” says Alem Hailu, African studies professor at Howard University in Washington, DC.

Using other resources

Some Egyptian observers say upstream countries, including Ethiopia, have other sources of water, including lakes they can tap for water rather than using the resources of the Nile.

Hailu disagrees.

During the dry part of the year, when the water table drops, the Nyangatom, Mursi and other tribes of the area dig deep holes in river beds to water their cattle and to get drinking water.
During the dry part of the year, when the water table drops, the Nyangatom, Mursi and other tribes of the area dig deep holes in river beds to water their cattle and to get drinking water.

“It is true,” he says, “that Ethiopia, Uganda, and other Basin countries have other resources, but the Nile Basin region, where the water comes from, has been an area where drought is pervasive and poverty rampant. That is why countries like Ethiopia are demanding their fare share of resources, so their people will be able to survive as well. They are fighting starvation and would like to have food security.”

Cooperation or war

The concern comes, says Hailu, “when policymakers frame the issue in terms of ‘If we don’t get our water we will bomb’ type of mentality.”

Should Ethiopia then be concerned about strains with Egypt over the Nile waters?

Professor Hailu says, “Geographically and regionally the relationship of Egypt and Ethiopia is very important. They are locked in many ways.”

Hailu says recent developments in Egypt show the military and civil leaders in Cairo favor pragmatism and accommodation rather than confrontation.

“In fact, the recent uprising and upheavals in Egypt and elsewhere show political leaders seem to be framing issues in terms of a win-win situation, where everybody benefits,” explains Hailu.

Win-Win

The issue should be framed in a way that benefits all, Hailu says. “Egypt and Ethiopia should find a path for joint development, not playing games of power politics.”

He says the new treaty provides that framework, by allowing upstream development in Ethiopia, which in turn will help develop Egypt and other countries.

“There is a proposal underway for hydro-power (dams) worth 1.4 billion dollars. There are regions in the Lake Tana area that need to be developed.”

Ethiopia's Gibe Dam 2
Ethiopia's Gibe Dam 2

Hailu says the best way for Egypt to share the Nile water would be building massive reservoirs in the Ethiopian highlands rather than relying solely on Lake Nasser near the Aswan dam close to the border with Sudan.

The lake, he says, loses nearly a quarter of the Nile Waters that empty into it each year due to evaporation.

“If Ethiopia and the other basin countries succeed in sustaining their environment, it is a great benefit for Egypt as well.”

For Ethiopia, he says that means hastening development in the Ethiopian highlands of Gojjam and the Bahar Dar area bordering Gondar.

More influence for Ethiopia

Observers say hydro-power and other developments could  improve  Ethiopia’s power and influence in the region. It could also strengthen the Meles Zenawi government, which has come under criticism from domestic observers and Ethiopians in the Diaspora.

Hailu is not so sure. He says this is a national issue rather a Meles-centered one: “Meles will come and go like all other governments.”

“The issue,” he says, “should be accentuating Ethiopia’s role as a historical country that has played a big role in Africa’s liberation.” Today, say observers, it can play a historic role in the continent’s economic revival.


You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid