News / Middle East

Egyptians Furious About Planned Ethiopia Dam

Sailor Mohammed Gamal worries Ethiopia's planned dam will hurt his livelihood, June 10, 2013. (VOA)
Sailor Mohammed Gamal worries Ethiopia's planned dam will hurt his livelihood, June 10, 2013. (VOA)
Elizabeth Arrott
Egyptians are becoming increasingly concerned about Ethiopia's plans to build a massive dam that would mean less water in the Nile river for several years. 

Cairo boat captain Adel Gamal ferries goods and people across the Nile.  On a run from the banks of the nation's capital to a small island in the middle, he described what the waters mean to him. He called the Nile the source of life.   But he, like many Egyptians recently, worry this life source is under threat.  
Far upstream, on the main tributary, the Blue Nile, Ethiopia has begun diverting waters to build the massive Grand Renaissance dam.  As the reservoir fills in the next few years, water levels downstream will drop.
Ethiopian officials say Egypt can make up the shortfall with better water management.  They point out Cairo already gets the biggest share under what most Nile Basin countries say is an outdated treaty, made in 1959 when many of the countries were still under colonial rule.
Egyptians Furious Over Ethiopia Dami
June 11, 2013 4:06 PM
Egyptians are becoming increasingly concerned about Ethiopia's plans to build a massive dam that would mean less water in the Nile for several years. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott has more from Cairo.
As a largely desert country - in essence sand with a river running its length - Egypt argues it needs every drop.  Veteran diplomat Ahmed Haggag, head of the Africa Society, said the other countries have alternatives to the Nile.
"They have a lot of rain.  They don't know what to do with the rain.  So the only country of the Nile Basin countries which really needs [Nile] water is Egypt," Haggag noted. "Without Egypt's Nile, there is no Egypt."
Critics say Egypt's current and former leaders failed to engage the upstream countries to protect national interests.  Security specialist Sameh Seif el Yazal argued the best chance now is to take the issue to the United Nations.
"I would like it to be international, so everybody will be aware that Egypt will be harmed," el Yazal said. "And, it doesn't mean they have to stop building their dam. No. But the way is to sit together and say what can we do."
But, although the former intelligence officer suggests talks, some Egyptian politicians have spoken of sabotage.  Politicians, unaware their comments were being broadcast live, suggested everything from stoking rebellion in Ethiopia to preparing military action against it.

Grand Renaissance DamGrand Renaissance Dam
El Yazal said such ideas only hurt Egypt.

"Ethiopia will use that if we go to the international law one day or go to the security council, whatever, they will use this against us, so please stop saying this," el Yazal said.
President Mohammed Morsi on Monday said Egypt is not calling for war, but added "all options are open."  In what appears a rallying cry in a deeply divided country, Morsi said the lives of Egyptians are connected by the Nile as "one great people."   

But General el Yazal warned that the president runs the risk of alienating his opponents further, if Egypt cannot advance its claims.  Already, water shortages have hurt agriculture and periodic cut-offs are a bane to all.

Certainly, popular sentiment against the dam is running to the emotional, even religious.
Boatsman Mohammed Gamal also works the river in Cairo.
 He said building the dam is haram -- forbidden by God.  It is haram, he said, that they block the Nile and take the water.  
Politics in Egypt may be polarizing, but the sanctity of the Nile seems the rare thing everyone agrees on.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: HENOK from: addis ababa
June 11, 2013 1:05 PM
" all options are on the table " is an empty bravado by Egyptians . All options are on another table as well !

by: challa from: Ethiopia
June 11, 2013 12:51 PM
The Egyptians, have for a long time, used the Nile water selfishly and irresponsibly. Like the song of the foolish man, they always say the same outdated saying like "historical right and gift of Egypt." Rather than saying all non-senses upon Ethiopia, it is better that they use their minds who has been propped up by wests to find out a better solution which helps mutual benefits.

by: EthiopianFellow from: Addis Ababa
June 11, 2013 12:27 PM
This is the time for Egyptians to think reasonably. Egypt is not the only country which actually need to use water resource. We all need it badly. For anybody who has a 101 on Hydro power, it is simple matter to understand that water flow will not be affected significantly by the GERD. If Egypt's agenda will keep on being the only decisive country on Nile, that will not work anymore. That is not acceptable morally, legally, logically, spritually, ...what ever they call it. If they are not willing to allow themeselves to think rationally, the consequence will simply be worse to them.

All the basin country needs water. We all have the right to use our resource. If they are advising us to depend on rain water alone, we also advise them to learn using the sea water surrounding Egypt. This is the time to be rational. No other way could be constructive to all of us.

by: LMitch from: USA
June 11, 2013 11:49 AM
First of all, Ethiopia is not blocking any water from Egypt. If they were doing that, they would be instigating a fight with Sudan as well, since the Blue Nile goes through that country and then Egypt. So, why would they block water thinking that it will only affect Egypt. It makes no sense. Secondly, the notion that Ethiopia using her own water resource is "haram" shows the Islamist extremism that is behind Egypt's complaints. They think that "Allah" gave them the whole Nile with all of its branches and therefore "allowing" Ethiopia say over the Blue Nile is to them surrendering to Christian rule. (even though Ethiopia has a large Muslim population)
In Response

by: ATsion from: Ethiopia
June 12, 2013 11:29 AM
Two things show how Egyptians think
1."they have a lot of rains but do not know what to do with rains"
2." they block the water and take the water and that is haram"
In Response

by: fox
June 12, 2013 10:53 AM
Its true that Egypt should be concerned for their water resources. But the tactics they use always has been treacherousness,bribing, sabotage and intimidation. All they want is for all the upstreams countries not to even think about the nile. But the reality is the nile belongs to all the upstream countries as egypt thinks it belongs to it.The 1929 and 1959 agreements were day light robbery of water when egypt claimed nearly all the nile water for itself. Without engaging with Ethiopia where some 85% of the water originate its childish to think these agreements will hold for far too long.
In Response

by: asklhg
June 11, 2013 12:26 PM
It's unfair to dismiss Egyptian concern as "Islamist extremism" because a boatsman said it was forbidden by God to alter the Nile waterflow - if that is your interpretation, is it possible you be approaching this issue with a bias? Egyptians have a right to be worried about what the dam might mean for their country, as it is their main source of water, and I don't think it's unreasonable for them to want to talk with Ethiopia to ensure the project doesn't also harm Egypt. Surely you can understand that without accusing Egyptians of Islamist extremism.
Comments page of 2

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs