Egypt has been in danger of losing a part of its water lifeline the Nile River. Ethiopia is dead set on constructing a giant dam over their part of the mighty river. And both parties still don’t see eye to eye.
This project, which was planned for the Blue Nile by Ethiopia, is just a part the water problems of population dense Egypt; which also loses a significant part of Nile River water from other sources: evaporation, leaky water pipe infrastructure, and from vegetation growing on the banks of the Nile and on river islands.
Talks between water resource ministers of three of the countries that share the Nile’s water resources, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, ended inconclusively this week in Khartoum, with the participants agreeing to meet meet again next month.
The ‘successful’ Egypt-Ethiopia talks failed to end differences over Nile water. A number of unresolved issues still remain to be solved. They revolve around Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam project on Ethipia’s upstream portion of the Nile, called the Blue Nile. Many water experts say this project could “damn Egypt’s development future”. Bur Ethiopia feels that this water is their energy right.
Ethiopia is an energy-poor country that is also plagued by drought and famine. Constructing the massive dam will provide it with both increased water supplies and with hydro-electric power. According to Middle East Online, Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile in May to build the 6,000 MW dam, which will be the largest dam built in Africa when completed in 2017.
Although Ethiopian water experts claim that Egypt’s water loss from the project will be “minimal”, Egypt claims that it has ‘historic rights’ to the use of Nile water. These rights stem from two treaties made in 1929 and 1959 that allow it 87 percent of the Nile’s flow and gives it veto power over upstream water projects.
Egypt itself constructed a large dam on the Nile at Aswan (see above photo), which was completed in 1970 during the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser.
This ten-year project caused much controversy and resulted in many historic archeological sites having to be relocated due to subsequent flooding by what is now known as Lake Nasser.
A dam on the Blue Nile by Ethiopia would obviously have an affect on both neighboring Sudan and Egypt.
Sudan, which like Egypt has still not signed Nile water use treaties with Ethiopia, has said that it will not be so much affected by the Renaissance Dam project. Sudan, Egypt’s long time ally, has apparently switched sides in favor of Ethiopia in regards to this project.
The unresolved issues dealing with the project will be further discussed when the water ministers meet again on January 4. After being weakened following the political turmoil of the Arab Spring uprisings, Egypt appears to be less able to exert its influence over Ethiopia on this important issue.
More articles on issues surrounding the River Nile:
Nile River dam illustration photo by Seeker
Photo of Nile River at Aswan by World Travelist