News / Middle East

Nile Power Shifts Away From Egypt

Ethiopia started building the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam two years ago. The hydroelectric power project will use the waters of Ethiopia’s  Abai River, which is the primary source of water for Sudan and Egypt.
Ethiopia started building the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam two years ago. The hydroelectric power project will use the waters of Ethiopia’s Abai River, which is the primary source of water for Sudan and Egypt.
David Arnold
Before the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi was ousted as president earlier this month, his government was planning to catch up on overdue negotiations with nine upstream neighbors in the Nile River Basin to salvage the country’s historic stake in the Nile River waters.
 
Morsi’s government had planned to talk with Ethiopia and Sudan over the future management of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a massive hydro-electric project on Ethiopia’s Abai River, and to re-start talks on what promised to be very tough a new agreement with Ethiopia and its other upstream partners.
 
The upriver countries have been busy in recent years signing papers that could have serious consequences for Egypt’s almost total dependence on the Nile waters.
 
Grand Renaissance Dam, EthiopiaGrand Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia
x
Grand Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia
Grand Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia
But when the Morsi government began objecting to Ethiopia’s upstream dam project a few months ago, it quickly discovered that it did not have control over the Abai River – whose basin provides 75 percent of the Nile waters.  The Morsi government also found it was going to have trouble with at least eight other countries that were interested in acquiring their own share of Nile waters.
 
Two previous Nile access treaties were based on river rights the British had guaranteed to colonial-era Egypt and Sudan. But countries at the Nile’s several sources upstream were kept out of those agreements.
 
That may soon change as the other Nile nations seek to ratify a new agreement, the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). And here again, Egypt could be a loser in the world’s latest water conflict.
 
Equal rights on the Nile
 
“What’s going on in the Nile Basin is to some degree what’s been going on in the Nile basin for many years,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security. “And that is growing competition over the limited resources of the Nile River, increasingly by the upstream nations.”

The era of Egyptian dominance is being replaced by an era “when many more countries, and especially Ethiopia, want to have a say in the ways it’s managed. The potential new agreement and the Abai dam could affect the amount, timing and quality of the water Egypt gets in the future,” said Gleick.
 
Six upstream countries have signed the new Nile Basin Initiative accord: Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Burundi. Newly independent South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are also expected to sign.
 
Each country must also ratify the agreement. Ethiopia’s parliament did so in June and Uganda’s may soon follow.
 
Sudan stands to be a key beneficiary of a new Nile basin agreement. A completed Abbai dam just across its border would offer Sudan much-needed cheap electrical power and put the country first in line for regulated flows of water from a friendly ally, Ethiopia.
 
The World Bank encouraged such regional cooperation when it created and funded the NBI process. But a western government official who monitors cross-border water rights issues says reaching an accord on the Nile has been more difficult than achieving similar water management agreements for the Tigris and Euphrates, the Mekong and the Indus rivers.
 
“At the national and regional level, many have done better,” the official said of the Nile talks.
 
Power shifts on the Nile
 
And regional experts say Egypt has been slow and ineffective in protecting its water rights to the Nile compared to other nations in the river basin.
 
Richard Tutwiler, director of the Desert Development Center at the American University in Cairo, says Egyptian politicians were so consumed with maintaining or winning political power during the recent upheavals that they didn’t pay enough attention to the Nile water negotiations.
 
“Water was not part of the revolutionary conversation,” said Tutwiler.
 
According to Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, this lack of attention could cost Egypt dearly.
 
”Egypt’s eye was not on the ball when it came to these negotiations over the Nile Basin Initiative and [it] was completely caught off guard by the construction of the [Ethiopian] dam,” Trager said.
 
The problem started well before Morsi took office last year, Trager added, noting that the Mubarak regime had balked at collective ongoing water rights negotiations with its upstream neighbors on the Nile.
 
At one point, Cairo even suspended its negotiations on an overall accord and tried to negotiate separate deals with some of its upstream neighbors.
 
“There is not much they can do about it” now, said Harry VerHoeven, a political scientist of the University of Oxford specializing in Nile basin issues. He said Egyptian efforts to block World Bank support of Ethiopia’s water initiatives and dam construction projects got Cairo nowhere.
 
“The world has changed very much and it is no longer the world of 20 or 30 years ago when Egypt could have veto [on] this sort of thing,” said VerHoeven.
 
And when Morsi finally realized how serious the situation was becoming for Egypt, he and other politicians began hinting or talking openly about possible military action to halt Ethiopia’s dam construction. But Trager noted that “the military gave a very clear signal it would not tolerate that.”
 
The generals, he said, were “not prepared to fight a war right now.”
 
 
Taking the Nile to court
 
One possible way to resolving Nile water issues peacefully is the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, according to Tom Campbell, dean of the Chapman University School of Law and a former Congressman who served on the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs subcommittee for African Affairs.
 
Campbell encouraged Ethiopia to take its case to the ICJ early so it could preempt any military conflict over the water rights. This is important, he added, because the court would not intervene in an on-going war.
 
And Ethiopia is on good legal ground, Campbell said, because legal precedent on trans-border water rights favors existing population needs. Egypt previously sought to expand its water rights on the Nile “to serve new settlements in the Sinai, he said, while Ethiopia was seeking to preserve existing life and livelihood” following severe periodic droughts.
 
In addition to its legal arguments in favor of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project, experts say Addis Ababa can make a good political case as well.
 
First, Ethiopia’s population is now estimated to be slightly larger than that of Egypt. Ethiopia’s economy has grown by 6 percent or more in recent years and its future economic progress now depends heavily on dams for irrigation and for energy production.
 
The nation’s 12 existing dams are designed to irrigate lands once subject to drought and famine, provide electricity to the majority of Ethiopians who live in rural poverty, boost foreign investment in agriculture and earn needed foreign currency by selling hydroelectric power to its neighbors in the Nile basin at a low price.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mohammed from: Egypt
July 18, 2013 7:28 AM
Egypt has hold back the NBI negotiation and it takes more than a decade. If the other countries were smart enough to exclude Egypt this agreement were signed 10 years and the dam was built well before. For Nile Egypt has made many nasty things to Ethiopians including organ stealing to big number.


by: mok from: Egypt
July 16, 2013 3:03 PM
For all starvation that can be prevented with small irrigation, for all civil war in Ethiopia Egypt was sponsor it, for the lost of our port to red see, for the selling of human organ from Ethiopian … soon or later Egypt will regret.

In Response

by: lakech
July 18, 2013 5:14 AM
Egypt will regret very soon. They were investing in creating internal instability and external enemies for more than half a century. and now they are doing very nasty human organ stealing from big number Ethiopian who are working in Arab countries. We are receiving a number of dead bodies everyday and big number of sick people and when they get a check up hear at least one kidney is stolen. We Ethiopian knows it is Egypt. Justice will happen very soon!!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid