Nile Disputes Threaten Africa’s Largest Hydropower Project

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The largest Hydropower project in Africa, the 6,000MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, is under threat as Ethiopia and Egypt remain unable to come to an agreement over the flow of the River Nile.

The giant dam is being constructed on the Blue Nile River, the largest tributary of the Nile, and Egypt is fearful that it might restrict the flow of the river which provides almost all of the country's water. Historically, as one of the most powerful countries along the length of the Nile, Egypt has benefited from almost complete control, but recent attempts to secure almost all rights in the future have just been rejected by Ethiopia.

Egypt claims that it signed a 1959 agreement with Sudan that granted them the rights to 55.5 billion cubic metres of water from the total 84 billion cubic metres flowing through the river. However, Ethiopia and other upriver countries have rejected the agreement, which they were never a part of, and claim that Egypt's monopolisation of the Nile would deprive them of a vital resource that runs through their country.

RIver Nile

In 2010, Ethiopia, along with five other countries based along the river Nile (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi in 2011) signed a Cooperative Framework Agreement that addressed issues of using the water in ways that do not cause significant harm to other countries reliant on the water. Basically these countries were fed up with always having to ask permission from Egypt before they could attempt to use the river in any development project. The agreement lays the foundations for creating a Nile River Basin Commission that would manage all water rights and development projects along the river.

Ethiopia claims that the $4.2 billion hydroelectric dam would benefit agriculture and any energy consumers in East Africa, while at the same time not affecting the flow of water downstream; even Sudan has shown its support for the project.

Egypt remains determined to retain its dominance of the River Nile, claiming that it is a matter of national security and that they actually need an even larger share of the water now due to the growing population. Politicians have even suggested the use of force against Ethiopia to prevent the dam from being completed.

Mohamed Abdel-Moteleb, the Egyptian Irrigation Minister, said that the country "has escalatory steps to assert our historic rights to the Nile waters."

Egypt suggested that a panel of neutral experts should be appointed to study the dam's impact on the river and the surrounding environment however Ethiopia was quick to reject this proposal. Eventually a committee was created, that included members from Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan, on the recommendation of international experts who were worried by the lack of understanding about the dam's downstream impact.

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Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (1)

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  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 3:16 AM, Rebufo wrote:

    Egypt as always being notorious and greedy. This country doesnt want Ethiopia to use a gallon of the Nile. For centuries it's people had been in a mission to make sure that Ethiopia never touched the water. Egypt supported all the civil wars in the past in the Horn of Africa and always worked to destabilize Ethiopia. Egypt's Coptic popes who gained respect by the big Ethiopian orthodox christian church ( some of whom were actually muslim but posed as christians) in the past came with their hidden agendas of controlling the Nile and "preached" Ethiopian farmers not to work during weekends and a number of days designated as church holiday through out the month to the point that it become a culture. Those days are gone. The 1956 agreement was faked by Egypt. If Egypt wants a war, we will stand united. This is 21st century. Ethiopia shouldnt be waiting for donors to feed it's people. I hope Egypt realizes this and learn to share natural resources than bluffing like this. First, take care of your own mess. We are ready to scarify ourselves for the generation to come, if "water war" is what it takes.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 3:19 AM, Rebufo wrote:

    Wow, Egypt is greedy!

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 11:48 AM, chrisblackusa wrote:

    when Egypt built the aswan dam they did not care about the flooding of ancient black Nubian cities that could never be recovered,,those who live upstream set the rules!!!!

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 3:42 PM, DrGripe wrote:

    I am disappointed that The Motley Fool has not accurately started the facts or the issues of this conflict which has been brewing for yours. I am not surprised by the ignorance in the comments to date.

    The agreements go back even further than reported and were arranged by the British. The NEW framework did not get the requisite signatures from participating countries and chance is not valid under the previous treaty.

    The Ethiopian GOVERNMENT originally stated that it would not take any water for irrigation but only wanted economic benefit from the hydroelectric power.

    Egypt already has a problem where there is not enough water for its own needs and worse the amount of water flowing has decreased and the Mediterranean sea is encroaching on the fresh water supply along the mouth of the Nile at the junction of the Mediterranean.

    The International community has condemned this dam and NO international financing was giving because the dam was deemed illegal but the rest of the world. ALL Government workers were required to give up one week of wages every month for a government bond to finance this dam as a result of the refusal of international lending sources.

    Three is international law on "international" rivers and Ethiopia has violated. Besides the reduction in the flow of water there is a greater threat to Egypt's national security in the power it gives over Egypt to force Egypt into any agreement Ethiopia wants under the threat of loss of more or even ALL water.

    Any references to the Aswan dam are foolish and irrelevant in this discussion as it had no influence on any other country's ability to receive the water it had been entitled to.

    Make no mistake, Egypt will never let this Dam finish under its current protocols.

    And as this seems to be a Christian/ Muslim/ Arab flash anger point I am forced to declare I am Irish/English/German born and raised American.

    This article by Motley Fool was poorly written and lack sound foundation of fact and should be removed as it only makes the management of the Motley fool look incompetent and unable to write a factual informed balanced report. I have tried to be respectful while calling the lack of due diligence in the research into this article into question.

    My expertise in this is multiple writings about this ongoing situation over the years, under another name, outlining the probability of war between Ethiopia and Egypt (but not an invasion.. just a single objective strike)

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 8:54 PM, anashed wrote:

    This article is completeley biased showing Egypt as greedy and a bully.

    In a matter of fact, building the ethiopian dam will definitely decrease Egypt's water share for the following reasons:

    1- Temporary reduction until the reservoir of the dam is filled

    2- permanent reduction due to evaporation from the reservoir

    3- permanent reduction from any water that will be used by ethipia for irrigation

    and given that Egypt is already suffering from water shortage, such decrease will have a great impact.

    And while i believe ethiopia has the right to use the water, although they have lots of rainfall that can be used but its irregularity is a problem, such use should be done through negotiations not through bullying by Ethiopia's side.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 9:02 AM, eldakar wrote:

    If Ethiopia continue to violate the Nile agreement that they signed, Egypt will enforce it.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 1:50 PM, Ethiopian wrote:

    Ethiopia has said now and again it is not going to use the Blue Nile for irrigation. That is understood.

    But to claim that Egypt alone has the right the Nile only for itself is absurd. An international panel have already reported that the Dam will not make a significant harm to the downstream countries. Ethiopia is not out to harm Egypt in anyway. The Dam is going to be built.

    Some people suggest a strike (a war) by Egypt. You people do not know the mentality of Ethiopians. Very polite but when anyone come with aggressive intention, The aggressive part have always been massacred. That is why that Ethiopia have always been independent nation.. Ask the Egyptians. We have been at war about 16 times and they have always been massacred. The Egyptians even came with Swiss and American mercenaries and were annihilated. I do not advise the Egyptians even to think about it. The retaliation by Ethiopia will may be severe. Ethiopia can for example divert the tributaries, about one thousand of them can be diverted. Not a difficult task. Another fact is Ethiopians can fight. I hope it does not come to this war business. No one wins. The Egyptians should take to reason.

    Someone commented 'Ethiopia continue to violate the Nile agreement'. Ethiopia was not a part of the agreement and never signed any agreement.


  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 5:15 PM, Yegenebale wrote:

    We have the right to use our water period. If you want to go war with Ethiopia again, you can try it. I am Ethiopian American, I will fight for both countries. God bless Ethiopian and American.

  • Report this Comment On January 14, 2014, at 4:25 PM, sudani wrote:

    Ethiopia was not part of 1959 treaty..they have no obligations towards it..International laws do not prevent Ethiopia from making use of the waters flow from its lands especially if there is no harm to Egypt..Egyptians should admit their weak situation and false argument..nothing for free..desalination of sea water through nuclear power is rational alternative or divertion of congo river tributary into the nile basin or if this is not possible awlad bomba to lick Ethiopian and Sudanese balls:)

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