A dispute over using the water within the Nile river has raised tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia threatening to impress a brand new disaster in relations as Addis Ababa nears completion of the continent’s greatest hydroelectric venture within the Ethiopian highlands.
After talks stalled earlier this month over the filling and operation of the Grand Renaissance dam on the higher reaches of the Blue Nile, Ethiopia has accused Egypt of in search of to frustrate the venture and block the nation’s growth. Egyptian officers mentioned Addis Ababa’s plans would give Ethiopia unfettered management over the circulation of the river — a lifeline for 100m Egyptians — threatening their nation’s already scarce water provides.
The impasse threatens to do additional harm to relations between two nations with an extended historical past of distrust. Cairo desires Ethiopia to ensure an agreed minimal circulation of water from the dam as a way to preserve the extent of its personal High Aswan dam, additional downstream, and guarantee there’s sufficient water for Egyptian energy era and irrigation. Addis Ababa mentioned Egypt desires to manage Ethiopia’s water system and has rejected Cairo’s name for worldwide mediation.
“Egypt wants to have veto power, telling Ethiopia what it can do,” mentioned Fesseha Shawel Gebre, the Ethiopian ambassador in London. The east African nation has lengthy charged that Egypt and Sudan have divided the circulation of the Nile between them beneath a 1959 settlement to which Ethiopia was not a celebration. By in search of to protect the water rights assured to Egypt beneath that settlement, Cairo needed to proceed the unequitable use of the Nile waters and go away Ethiopia “in the dark”, mentioned Mr Fesseha.
Cairo insists it desires to work out a “co-operative” method to minimise harm, and that its principal concern was the administration of the river throughout instances of drought. “Ethiopia is not offering clear procedures on what to do if we are faced with certain hydrological conditions,” mentioned an Egyptian official near the negotiations. “They say when there is a drought we will discuss it.”
The $four.8bn Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), close to the border with Sudan, would be the largest hydropower venture in Africa when accomplished in 2022. A linchpin of Ethiopia’s financial growth plans, at its peak it should generate greater than 6,000 megawatts of electrical energy, serving to lengthen energy to the 65m Ethiopians who nonetheless dwell with out electrical energy.
The filling of the reservoir is anticipated to start in June, through the subsequent wet season. Egypt fears it may face water shortages if that course of is just not completed slowly.
While Ethiopia desires to fill the reservoir inside 4 years, Egypt desires a slower tempo that may be diversified in response to droughts. Egypt additionally desires Ethiopia to ensure a minimal annual circulation of 40bn cubic metres of water in non-drought situations and to maintain water ranges in Egypt’s Aswan dam above 165 metres.
A fisherman on the Nile close to Cairo. Egypt is determined by the river for nearly all of its water © AFP/Getty Images
In addition, it has proposed inserting monitoring groups from the three nations on the web site of the Ethiopian dam and in Cairo and Sudan’s capital Khartoum. Ethiopia mentioned such calls for amounted to an assault on its sovereignty.
“What Egypt wants is to make Ethiopia its hydrological colony,” mentioned Zerihun Abebe Yigzaw, a member of Ethiopia’s Nile negotiating committee. “What if we have a dry season, what if we do not have water in the system at all, that means are we going to destroy all other dams in the country, or divert all the water to the Renaissance dam to fulfil Egypt’s request?”
International consultants say it must be potential to achieve an settlement on the joint administration of the river system and that there are examples from different river basins such because the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan.
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“Agreements for filling the GERD should consider the possibility of droughts occurring during the filling process, which may include arrangements on how the three countries might adapt under these conditions,” mentioned Kevin Wheeler, of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford college. “Considering shared drought management strategies over the long term — after the filling process is complete — is also very important.”
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian president, and Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, who was final week awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, are resulting from talk about the deadlock on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit in Sochi subsequent week.
For Egypt, an arid desert nation which is determined by the Nile for nearly all of its water, the prospect of a diminished circulation is seen as an existential risk. The nation is already beneath the internationally recognised water poverty threshold and it has a younger and fast-growing inhabitants.
“We want a fair agreement and we understand Ethiopia’s development needs,” mentioned the Egyptian official. “But Ethiopia has to understand that we depend on the Nile for 97 per cent of our water.”