Is Ethiopia taking control of the River Nile?

Is Ethiopia taking control of the River Nile?

The Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation announced the return of Minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati from a three-day overseas tour to Sudan and Ethiopia to discuss the latest developments in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and its negative effects on Egypt’s share of the Nile waters, which is estimated at 55 billion cubic meters.

The Minister handed Egypt’s final vision of the filling and operation rules of the Renaissance Dam to the Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, Seleshi Bekele. The pair met during a discussion held at the Ethiopian Ministry of Water.

This was accompanied by a joint Egyptian-Sudanese request to hold a sixth meeting for ministers of irrigation and foreign affairs from the three countries in order to discuss the crisis caused by Ethiopia’s expediting of the dam’s construction process.

The Egyptian Minister of Irrigation said in an official statement yesterday, immediately after his return from Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, that Egyptian expertise was presented in the field of water resource management and improving the efficiency of using watergrass.

Abdel-Ati explained that the Ethiopian side was invited to contribute to this expertise, stressing Egypt’s readiness to implement bilateral projects which will contribute to supporting and consolidating cooperation between the two countries.

According to Egyptian government sources, the Egyptian vision also included a commitment to the need for Egyptian experts or an international technical mission to observe the management and operation of the dam after its completion.

The sources added that the Egyptian viewpoint included a proposal to fill the reservoir of the dam over a seven-year period, which Egyptian experts believe will reduce the negative effects on Egypt’s share of water.

“Despite the needed 7 years to fill the reservoir, this period also includes Egypt’s bearing of quite numerous negative effects,” the sources added, saying that “Cairo provided a detailed report on the cost it will bear by the storage of water behind the dam, which Addis Ababa insists should not last more than three years”.

The sources pointed out that the file also included detailed items concerning the 70 billion Egyptian pounds that Egypt would bear in the construction of desalination plants over nine years to compensate for the period of deficit that would result from the process of filling the reservoir on the Egyptian side of the Nile.

The item also included other measures Egypt will take, including the reduction of large areas of water-intensive crops such as rice, the amount of financial losses borne by Egypt in this context, how it has turned from a crop-exporting country to an importing country, and the extent to which the state treasury is bearing the cost of these step.

The Nile River Basin extends to 11 African countries Egypt — one of the oldest civilizations in the world — has controlled the river and used the lion’s share of its waters for millennia. That could be about to change.

The Blue Nile River is the Nile’s largest tributary and supplies about 85% of the water entering Egypt. Ethiopia is building its $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile, near the border with Sudan. When completed, it will be the largest dam in Africa, generating around 6,000 megawatts of electricity for both domestic use and export.

“It’s like somebody has control over a tap. If the Ethiopian people for some reason want to reduce the amount of water coming to Egypt, it would be a great problem,” says Aly El-Bahrawy, professor of hydraulics at Cairo’s Ain Shams University.

Water Scarcity is a serious issue in the north African nation, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In 2014, Egypt had 637 cubic meters per capita, compared to 9,538 cubic meters per capita in the United States– nearly 15 times as much.

With its population predicted to reach 120 million by 2030, Egypt is on track to hit the threshold for “absolute water scarcity” — less than 500 cubic meters per capita — according to the FAO. And that’s without factoring in any complications caused by the dam.