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  They point out Cairo already gets the biggest share under what most Nile Basin countries say is an outdated treaty, made in 1959 when many of the countries were still under colonial rule.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.

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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.
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