Sunday, December 29, 2013
The construction of a new dam in Ethiopia will not affect the supply of water flowing to Egypt, said Egyptian Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources on Saturday.
Construction on the Megech Dam, located near the Ethiopian city of Gondar, began earlier this month and has been allocated funding of approximately USD $125m, according to privately-owned Ethiopian Walta and its Information and Public Relations Center. The dam is planned to hold 1.8 billion cubic metres of water when it is constructed, and will be used for irrigation purposes and drinking water for Gondar.
The effects of the dam have already been studied, said Egyptian minister Mohamed Abdel Moteleb, and have been presented by the Ethiopian government as part of one of the projects included in the eastern Nile Basin Initiative, an initiative that all Nile Basin countries have agreed upon.
Abdel Moteleb added that studies of the dam conducted by Egypt demonstrated that it would not have an effect on the volume of water flowing to Lake Nasser, south of the Aswan High Dam.
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Sunday that nine foreign policy working groups, comprised of intellectuals, experts, and leaders from inside and outside the ministry, met to discuss Egypt’s water security in the presence of irrigation and water resource experts.
A statement issued by the foreign ministry said the groups discussed “not only how to maintain Egypt’s historical legal share of water, but how to increase it to meet requirements for development”.
They also addressed “sources of potential threat and how to deal with them in order to preserve vital Egyptian interests and safeguard the national security of the country”.
The talks hosted by the foreign ministry are part of a larger framework in which the working groups are scheduled to address other topics related to Egypt’s foreign affairs.
A delegation from Egypt, which will include Abdel Moteleb, plans to join Sudan and Ethiopia delegations in January in Khartoum for a third round of talks to agree on the formation of an experts committee.
This committee will be tasked with overseeing the implementation of recommendations made by the International Committee of Experts, who have studied the effects of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam, which Egypt fears could affect its share of Nile water.
Abdel Moteleb also announced that another study on the effects of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that will be completed between six months and one year, and will be referenced heavily throughout upcoming discussions.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Egypt turns to business, civil society in Nile water dispute - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East
Contributor, Egypt Pulse
Ayah Aman is an Egyptian journalist for Al-Shorouk specializing in Africa and the Nile Basin, Turkey and Iran, and internal Egyptian social issues. On Twitter: @ayahaman
A state of controversy and conflict has been ongoing between Egypt and countries of the Nile Basin for the last four years, as politicians and experts have failed to reach a legally binding agreement for joint management of the Nile River waters. This has led to a move toward involving civil organizations and institutions to find popular alternatives to negotiations in an attempt to bridge the gaps between points of view and reduce the tensions between countries of the Nile River Basin.
To that end, a meeting was held at the beginning of December in Cairo among representatives of Egyptian, Sudanese, South Sudanese, Ethiopian and Eritrean civil society organizations, backed by UNESCO and the Arab Water Council in an attempt to guarantee the ability of civil organizations to bridge diverging viewpoints and end the dispute between countries bordering the Nile River. The meeting also aimed to reduce the effects of the various governments’ political conflict on the relations between the peoples of the Nile River Basin, find a way to maintain an open line of communication between these peoples, empower the culture of peace and minimize the effects of any official attempts to exacerbate the conflict or cause damage to any of the countries that border the Nile.
The two-day discussions, attended by Al-Monitor as part of the corps of representatives from civil society, international donors and governmental agencies, ended with the possibility of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) playing an effective role in strengthening the lines of communication between Nile Basin countries and the adoption of a social services agenda that benefits the people of the region. Attendees agreed on the formation of teams that would exchange information pertaining to water and sanitation needs, as well as to prompt governments to hasten the process of solving the people's problems, promising to overcome remaining hurdles and providing the needed financial and political support.
Disagreements between Egypt and the other Nile River Basin countries, especially Ethiopia, have escalated following the insistence of Addis Ababa’s government on building the Renaissance Dam on the Nile, to which Cairo objects for fear that it might compromise Egyptian water security and reduce its share of water. Negotiations between technical committees from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have failed, so far, to reach a clear understanding on the dam. Furthermore, Egypt refused in May 2010 to join the Entebbe Nile River Basin Initiative treaty, because it contained articles that did not recognize Egypt’s historically established quotas of Nile waters and gave signatory states the right to build facilities on the Nile without consulting with downstream countries.
Menjichia Werkineh, a leader of one of the Ethiopian NGOs that deal with water issues, told Al-Monitor, “It is necessary for governments to again sit around the negotiating table and find solutions to all contentious articles and subjects, without creating political problems between the countries of the Nile Basin. There is no time for conflict at this time, when peoples are suffering from poverty, hunger and disease and at a time when they possess important water resources that can be exploited for everyone’s benefit.”
“We are working on programs to support the Nile Basin Initiative, educate NGOs and involve them in solving water issues, as well as conduct field work in remote areas of Nile Basin countries aimed at providing water and sewage services, in addition to supporting popular discourse between civil organizations in remaining Nile Basin countries,” he added.
Werkineh also said, “In Ethiopia, there is a sort of governmental communication with and support to civic organizations. But we also face the problem of funding our projects, which are backed by certain international bodies. Unfortunately, most of them cannot reach local organizations in various Ethiopian cities.”
An Egyptian diplomatic source said in an interview with Al-Monitor, “We look forward to a real role played by civil society to reduce the intensity of the conflict. We consider popular organizations to be a form of soft power capable of bolstering governmental efforts to ease tensions between Egypt and Nile Basin countries. We are also looking for ways to take advantage of these organizations and affirm Egypt’s good intentions and constant striving for dialogue with peoples of the Nile Basin, to reach solutions that are beneficial to all, while reiterating that our goal is not to monopolize the waters of the Nile.”
A delegation of popular, partisan and political personalities managed to achieve a qualitative success in restoring negotiations and communications with Ethiopia after a visit conducted in May 2011. This bolstered the chances of popular diplomacy in coming up with new solutions and alternatives to official negotiations between governments, which continue to fail to reach any resolutions that gain the acceptance of upstream countries and the downstream nations of Egypt and Sudan.
Hamad Ahmad, the head of the Egyptian-South Sudanese Friendship Association, said, “Through our association, we are trying to establish a nongovernmental avenue for cooperation in water-related affairs between Egypt and South Sudan, while emphasizing cross-cultural communication between the two countries and attracting donors to back small-scale developmental projects in service-deprived villages and provinces of South Sudan. We do not get caught up in politics, lest our efforts for communication be spoiled. There is an agreement between Egyptian and South Sudanese members of the association not to discuss contentious issues in our meetings, as we try to develop the social conditions necessary for acceptance of cooperation projects between Egypt and South Sudan in Nile water-management issues.”
The head of the Egyptian-Ethiopian Business Council, Ayman Issa, affirmed to Al-Monitor, “The investments carried out by the Egyptian private sector in Ethiopia managed to reduce tensions engendered by the water issues between the two countries. Despite the possible damage to investments resulting from political tensions, both countries’ official leaderships continuously strive to maintain mutual economic interests, while refraining from associating them with the conflict over the waters of the Nile. We realize the need that Ethiopia has for development, and the huge challenges it is facing to achieve economic growth. The private sector is a form of soft power that Egypt can wield if Egyptian-Ethiopian relations become associated with their mutual economic interests.”
Egypt set up an important business bearing the name of Al-Nasr during the reign of late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. That company played a strong economic role in a number of African nations, particularly Nile River Basin states, following their independence from colonial powers in the 1960s. Egypt relied on that same company to administer its economic and political relations in Africa, until the era of late President Anwar Sadat.
The current Egyptian administration is trying to exploit all nontraditional avenues to strengthen its relations with African nations. It's particularly trying to do so with those of the Nile River Basin by relying on this soft power, as a result of the continued conflict over the Nile waters and the inability to reach technical or diplomatic solutions that safeguard Egypt’s historic interest in those waters.
Monday, December 23, 2013
A study on the effects of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be completed in six months, but less than one year, and will be binding, Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Moteleb said on Saturday.
Abdel Moteleb told state-run MENA that the scientific study will be binding for Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, adding that it will guarantee the interests of “everyone”.
The water ministers of the three countries met in Khartoum in November and December and have agreed to meet once more in January.
Talks have yet to produce an experts committee that will oversee the implementation of recommendations made by the International Committee of Experts on dealing with the effects of the dam.
Egypt fears that the Ethiopian dam will affect its current majority share of the Nile water. In accordance with agreements signed in 1929 and 1959 Egypt is guaranteed 55.5 billion cubic metres of the estimated total of 84 billion cubic metres of Nile water produced each year.
Abdel Motaleb said Egypt’s current share of water is insufficient for its agricultural and human consumption, adding that the “population growth imposes challenges to make up for this shortfall of 20 billion cubic metres”.
Although tensions have now eased, the Ethiopian dam was the cause for strained relations between Egypt and Ethiopia earlier this year. In May, Ethiopia began diverting water from a tributary of the Blue Nile, raising Egyptian concerns.
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said in October that there is “no alternative to cooperation between Nile Basin countries,” adding that the water issue is not a “zero-sum game”.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Monday, December 16, 2013
Joel Gulhane / / 3 Comments / 1797 Views
A committee made up of experts will be formed to oversee the implementation of the recommendations made by the International Committee of Experts to combat the impact of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The announcement by Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdul Muttalib comes days after the conclusion of high-level meetings in the Sudanese capital after which it was agreed to hold another meeting in January to discuss some “sticking points”.
Muttalib said last week that he and his Ethiopian and Sudanese counterparts had discussed the implementation of a mechanism to oversee the implementation of the recommendations but provided no further details. The minister announced on Sunday that this mechanism will take the form of a committee made up of an expert representative from each country and will be formed “within two weeks of approval by the ministers.”
The minister said that it had been agreed the committee would have one year to complete its work, starting from the date of its formation. All three countries will bear the cost of the committee.
The ministers agreed that all three countries will share their collected data “required to conduct complementary studies in as timely manner.” It was also agreed to pass on the studies of the International Committee of Experts to “a select group of global consultancy firms known for their competence and experience.”
Muttalib highlighted that the meeting in Khartoum included a “lengthy debate on the presence of an international element in the work of the commission.” The ministers deferred this decision until their meeting in January, also to be held in the Sudanese capital.
The minister said last week that the meetings had been carried out “in a good spirit”. This is a marked difference from the tension that existed previously, which intensified following a blunder by Egyptian politicians who suggested espionage as a possible solution to the potential impact of the GERD during a national dialogue meeting.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Meeting on Ethiopian dam ends without accord
The water ministers of the three countries held talks in Khartoum on Monday in an attempt to reach common grounds over Ethiopia's controversial multibillion hydroelectric dam project.
World Bulletin / News Desk
A ministerial meeting between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia to bridge gaps over an Ethiopian dam project on the River Nile ended Monday without any accord.
"The meeting was transparent and we tackled several issues related to the implementation of an expert panel on the dam," Sudanese Minister of Water Resources and Electricity Muataz Musa told reporters.
He, however, said "certain" issues will be discussed during a planned meeting in Khartoum on January 4-5, giving no further details.
The water ministers of the three countries held talks in Khartoum on Monday in an attempt to reach common grounds over Ethiopia's controversial multibillion hydroelectric dam project.
Musa has shuttled between the two delegations, who stayed in two separate meeting rooms, according to an Anadolu Agency reporter on the site.
The Sudanese side presented a proposal to bridge gaps between Ethiopia and Egypt.
"This is the only thing we have right now, they either take it or leave it," Musa told reporters.
The gathering is the latest in a series of meetings aimed at building confidence between the three nations regarding Ethiopia's long-anticipated Grand Renaissance Dam.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday confirmed his country's support Ethiopia's dam project, noting that Khartoum would enjoy a large share of the electricity thus generated.
It was the first time that al-Bashir personally confirmed his country's support for the Ethiopian dam, which had adversely effected relations between Cairo and Addis Ababa earlier this year.
Ethiopia's plans to build a massive dam on the Blue Nile have raised fears in Egypt that the move would threaten Egypt's historical share of the historical river, which represents the country's primary water source.
In May, Addis Ababa diverted the flow of the river, further raising concerns in Cairo.
A tripartite committee of experts from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan was drawn up in 2011 and tasked with assessing the dam's possible environmental, economic and social effects on downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
The committee, which includes ten water experts from the three countries along with international experts, recently called for further study of safety issues related to the dam's construction and the project's possible impact on the two downstream states.
Ethiopia, for its part, insists the new dam will benefit Egypt and Sudan, both of which will be invited to purchase electricity generated by i
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Monday, December 9, 2013
Water ministers meet in Sudan for latest round of talks on how to share Africa's fabled river.
Barry Malone Last updated: 09 Dec 2013 07:18
Egypt and Ethiopia have a long history of rancour over the river [AP]
|Play a game of word association almost anywhere in the world, and if you try the word "Nile", the answer will be "Egypt". Herodotus famously said the country was a gift of the fabled river, and it's no exaggeration - given that Egypt is almost totally dependent on the Nile for water and agriculture.|
But upstream of Cairo, there's a country where the answer to the word association wouldn't be Egypt - where the people don't even call the it the Nile, and where more than 85 percent of the river's water originates. That place is Ethiopia, and it has enraged Egypt by starting to build a huge dam on the river.
The dam itself, which will be used to generate hydropower, is a beast. It will produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity and stand 170 metres high and 1,800 metres wide, making it the biggest in Africa and the 13th biggest in the world. Ethiopia calls it the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and its government and people see it as just that - a reassertion of historic Ethiopian wealth and influence.
Upriver from the construction site in northwestern Ethiopia sits the small hamlet of Gish Abay. There you can find the three small trickles of water, hidden behind a few tufts of grass, that are believed to be the source of the Blue Nile, the tributary from which the vast majority of Nile water flows.
Al Jazeera visited those trickles shortly after Ethiopia announced plans for the dam in 2011 and saw lines of priests and locals snake up and down a field leading to the springs, clutching jerrycans and bottles filled with water they believe to be holy - even magic. Here, they called the river "Tis Abbay", fully understood its strategic importance and said they proudly backed the government's plan to harness its power.
New government, new meetings
Construction has been underway for about two years, and though Egypt, Ethiopia and the other nine countries that share the Nile have been bickering about its waters for much longer, things became particularly heated when Ethiopia began diverting a stretch of the river last May. And, though the situation has since calmed down, the dispute has not gone away and construction is still forging ahead.
The water ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan are to meet again in Khartoum on Monday, this time to argue over the composition of a committee of experts who have been looking into the potential impact of the project on Egypt and Sudan, which have long taken an overwhelming share of the Nile's water. Though the panel, which is made up of experts from all three nations, has already compiled a report, Egypt was not happy and wants international consultants to be brought onboard.
Sudan, which has traditionally supported Egypt on Nile issues, now says it backs the mega-project, leaving Cairo out on its own with its sometimes sabre-rattling rhetoric.
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn met this week, underlined that support and, crucially, inaugurated a cross-border electricity link so Ethiopia can sell more power to Sudan - those power exports a key element in Addis Ababa's attempts to convince its neighbours the dam could be good for all of their economies.
With Egyptian officials not long in their jobs since former president Mohamed Morsi was toppled and the new military-backed authorities installed, to a certain extent, all three governments are feeling each other out again in these new meetings and a more constructive tone has been adopted of late.
But there is also much institutional memory of animosity, both long-running and recent.
In May, in one of his last acts in power, Morsi claimed that "all options" were on the table to protect his country's water supply. "We are not calling for war, but we will never permit our water security ... to be threatened," he said, adding that "our blood is the alternative" to losing one drop of water.
Ethiopia, growing in diplomatic and economic clout, was unfazed. Aware of the famous Herodotus quote, they've always shot back: "If Egypt is a gift of the Nile, then the Nile is a gift of Ethiopia."
Responding to Morsi, Addis Ababa officials said the dam's existence was non-negotiable. The Egyptians won't consider war "unless they go mad", Hailemariam said at the time.
If Ethiopian officials have allowed themselves a smirk at Egypt's woes since and thought that, with Morsi gone, they had been gifted time to work on the dam unhindered, they were wrong.
Even as pitched battles were fought in Cairo and the administration struggled to restore order, it managed to sound dark warnings to Ethiopia. With the political situation steadier now, the Egyptian government can pay more attention to its foreign policy. And, relations with its closest allies aside, the Nile is the priority.
The bellicose exchanges between the two nations are nothing new. In 1979, then Egyptian president Anwar Sadat said, "The only matter that could take Egypt to war again is water."
More recently, Meles Zenawi, the late Ethiopian Prime Minister who made the Renaissance Dam something of a personal project, said in a 2011 interviewthat Egypt had been trying to destabilise Ethiopia for decades by supporting its rebels and enemies. He was derisive about Egypt's chances of success if it stood in Ethiopia's way. "I am not worried that the Egyptians will suddenly invade Ethiopia," Meles said. "Nobody who has tried that has lived to tell the story."
Some journalists and analysts have become so excited by the dispute that they predict the world will finally see its first proper, large-scale water war. Other analysts caution that co-operation, not conflict, is the only thing that can work for both countries.
And war does, for the forseeable future, look unlikely. Ethiopia timed the announcement that it was building the dam very cleverly - two months after the toppling of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, who had always been hawkish about the possibility of Ethiopia damming the Nile. "We knew he was uncomfortable with us even bathing in it," an Ethiopian official told Al Jazeera.
According to emails from the US-based intelligence analysis firm Stratfor, which were obtained by Wikileaks, Mubarak had plans to launch airstrikes from Sudan on any dam Ethiopia might build.
Stratfor has recently pointed out, though, that Egypt would likely struggle if it tried to militarily thwart the project. Ethiopia is too far away, Stratfor says. Egypt would be reliant on Sudanese support, which it now appears not to have, and even sending in special forces would be difficult. Ethiopia has one of the biggest and most battle-hardened armies in Africa.
'No Nile, no Egypt'
The dispute hinges on what looks, based on the numbers, like a glaringly unfair portion of water consumed by Egypt and Sudan - as well as on the fact that both countries' claim to the water derives from colonial-era treaties brokered by the British and not signed by anyone upstream of Khartoum. As Meles put it back in 2010, "The Egyptians have yet to make up their minds as to whether they want to live in the 21st or the 19th century ... So the process appears to be stuck."
The Nile has two main tributaries - the Blue Nile and the White Nile. The Blue Nile, which originates in Ethiopia's Lake Tana, contributes the vast majority of the water and fertile soil. The White Nile, which is longer, meets it at Sudan's capital Khartoum, where they form the greater Nile and flow to Egypt.
Under the 1929 pact, Egypt is entitled to 55.5 billion cubic metres of water a year, the lion's share of the Nile's total flow of around 84 billion cubic metres. Sudan gets 18.5 billion cubic metres. Both countries were given veto power over upstream projects and the views of the other countries through which the river passes were simply ignored.
But, as the upstream countries developed economic, military and diplomatic clout, they pushed back and drew up their own agreement allocating the water more equally and eliminating the veto power.
Though few would dispute that the numbers looks unfair, Egypt has a strong case, too. The Egyptians point out that they don't benefit from rains like the upstream countries and that, having based their agriculture for centuries on access to the river water, they have little alternative. "No Nile, no Egypt," Cairo says.
Credible analysts, though, say that agreement is the only thing that makes sense for all of the Nile Basin countries. Instead of an Ethiopian dam, they say, make it an African dam. Instead of an Egyptian river, recognise it as an African one. Ethiopia could certainly use some help to raise funds for the $4.3bn structure, which is being built by a private Italian firm.
The dam could generate much-needed electricity for all the countries in the Nile region, they say, boosting infrastructure, industry and trade. The Ethiopians are already striking deals on power exports. Addis Ababa also says dams upriver would help reduce evaporation from Egypt's Aswan Dam and that the new Nile agreement has made water preservation more efficient, so that Egypt and Sudan will not lose out.
For now, the Egyptians remain sceptical and the Ethiopians remain determined, both governments representing nations who share an almost mystical attachment to the world's longest river.
As the ministers meet in Khartoum on Monday, an army of workers in northwestern Ethiopia will be getting on with their jobs, piecing together the monster structure at the heart of the discussions, not stopping for a moment. The dam is 30 percent complete so far, the government says.
"The Abbay is Ethiopia," one old priest, his finger wagging, said on Al Jazeera's visit in 2011. "Ethiopia is Abbay. I am a holy man, so I wish that the Egyptians can share. But I am old and so I remember that we have never been friends. If we can't agree now then it is dangerous for both of us."