19 Jul 2010: Report

Does Egypt Own The Nile?
A Battle Over Precious Water

A dispute between Egypt and upstream African nations has brought to the fore a long-standing controversy over who has rights to the waters of the Nile. The outcome could have profound consequences for the ecological health of the river and for one of the world’s largest tropical wetlands.

by fred pearce

A simmering dispute over who owns the waters of the River Nile is heating up. From its headwaters in Ethiopia and the central African highlands to the downstream regional superpower Egypt, the Nile flows through 10 nations. But by a quirk of British colonial history, only Egypt and its neighbor Sudan have any rights to its water.

That is something the upstream African nations say they can no longer accept. Yet as the nations of the Nile bicker over its future, nobody is speaking up for the river itself — for the ecosystems that depend on it, or for the physical processes on which its future as a life-giving resource in the world’s largest desert depends. The danger is that efforts to stave off water wars may lead to engineers trying to squeeze yet more water from the river — and doing the Nile still more harm. What is at risk here is not only the Nile, but also the largest wetland in Africa and one of the largest tropical wetlands in the world — the wildlife-rich Sudd.

High Aswan Dam
Getty Images
Built in the 1960s, the High Aswan dam allows Egypt to control the flow of the Nile.
In May, five upstream Nile nations — Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda — signed a treaty declaring their rights to a share of the river’s flow. They said they would no longer be bound by a treaty drawn up by the British in 1959. That treaty had given Egypt 55.5 cubic kilometers of the river’s flow and Sudan 18.5 cubic kilometers, but no formal entitlements for any nation upstream.

In essence the five nations were calling Egypt’s bluff. Egypt entirely controls the river’s flow from the moment it crosses the border from Sudan and is captured by the High Aswan dam, built by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser with Russian help in the 1960s. But Egypt’s control depends on what comes downstream, over which it has no control. In the past, Egypt has frequently said any attempt by upstream nations to take what it regarded as Egyptian water would result in war.

Egypt’s concern is understandable. Some 75 million of Egypt’s 80 million inhabitants live on the river’s delta and narrow river valley. The Nile is the lifeblood of Egypt. It irrigates the nation’s food and cash crops and generates its energy, and the river’s fish provide much of Egyptians’ protein.

Egypt’s leaders are prepared to countenance their neighbors building hydroelectric dams that hold back water, provided that water ultimately
Egypt has threatened legal action if its current water ‘rights’ are not upheld.
returns to the river to flow on downstream. But they are not prepared to allow countries to take water out of the river for consumptive uses like agriculture. Egypt’s biggest concern is Ethiopia, whose Lake Tana is the source of the largest of the river’s two main tributaries, the Blue Nile, and whose own 80 million inhabitants have heavy unmet water needs, especially for irrigation.

So, after the breakaway group of upstream nation declared their own water rights, Egypt reacted earlier this month by going on a high-level diplomatic offensive with offers of aid, backed up by threats of legal action if its current water “rights” are not upheld.

Thanks to the Nile, Egypt still has much more water per capita than many of its neighbors in the Middle East. Much of its farming is wasteful of water. But existing entitlements are a “red line” that the nation cannot allow to be crossed, says Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.

That’s the hydro-politics. But all current negotiations begin from the assumption that the river is a pipe carrying water to the sea — and that the only deal that needs to be done is who can take what from the pipe. Rivers are a bit more complicated than that, and yet nobody is talking about setting aside any of the Nile’s precious flow for nature.

The Nile, by some measures the world’s longest river, is also among its most beleaguered. Its entire annual flood is captured behind the High Aswan dam, shimmering in the Sahara Desert at the border between Egypt and Sudan. The water is then fed downstream to meet the needs of Egyptian farmers. Most years virtually no water reaches the sea.

These changes are already having damaging effects. While the dam releases the water, it does not release the river’s heavy silt loads — mostly the product of erosion of the friable hills of Ethiopia. Once, the silt
The Nile River delta is eroding — in some places by 10 meters a year.
maintained the fertility of Egyptian fields and prevented the river’s delta from being washed away by the waves of the Mediterranean. But now the silt stays behind the dam, gradually accumulating. Egyptian soils are kept fertile with artificial fertilizer (manufactured using energy generated by the dam’s turbines), while the delta, which contains two-thirds of Egypt’s farmland, is eroding — in some places by tens of meters per year. Once-thriving farming villages like Borg-el Borellos now lie submerged out to sea.

In the long run, current abuse of the river is not sustainable. But still politicians want to extract more from the river, not less. Since all the water is now taken most years, the most obvious option is to reduce nature’s own “wastage” of water through evaporation.

One place to do this stands out. A century ago, British imperial engineers first eyed the Sudd. This is a huge wetland in southern Sudan, stretching for more than 40,000 square kilometers. Its shimmering desert waters are fed by the Nile’s second tributary, the White Nile, which moves very slowly, its water dawdling for up to a year as it makes its way through the myriad channels of the Sudd. This water sustains a major ecosystem in the desert, with thick beds of floating papyrus, thousands of hippos and crocodiles, large herds of elephants, and millions of migratory birds, while also sustaining pastures for the cattle herds of tribes like the Dinka, who live on the fringes of the Sudd. But hydrologists estimate that the White Nile loses half its flow in the process — largely to evaporation.

Engineers developed a plan to a cut a canal to allow the White Nile to bypass the Sudd. Back in 1978, a 2,300-ton canal-digging machine from
If a proposed canal is built, at least a quarter of the huge Sudd wetland would be lost.
Pakistan, known as a Bucketwheel, was dismantled and dragged by truck, train, steamer and camel to southern Sudan, where it began cutting the Jonglei canal. Egypt, the sponsor of the project, said that by reducing evaporation in the Sudd, it would deliver an extra 5 cubic kilometers of water downstream — water that it agreed to share with Sudan.

The machine had dug 260 of the planned 360 kilometers of canal by 1984, when the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army, fighting for southern independence from the Muslim north, raided the canal camp and took foreign hostages. War intensified, and no work has been done since. The canal remains a dead end, and the Bucketwheel sits abandoned in the desert.

But peace broke out in southern Sudan in 2005, after the region gained partial autonomy. The president of southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, has held talks with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak about the prospects of resuming work on the canal, as part of a range of reconstruction projects that Kiir hopes Egypt will undertake in his fledgling country. The final hurdle may be a referendum on full independence for South Sudan, which is due in January.

For politicians, the Jonglei canal is the perfect deal. It will allow more water to be taken from the Nile upstream without reducing how much crosses the border into Egypt. In return for being allowed to dig the canal, Egypt will offer development aid for a new nation.

But the canal would, of course, do huge damage to the Sudd, one of the jewels of African wildlife. The canal would not completely dry up the
Lake Nasser, Egypt’s water bank, is the biggest source of water loss on the river.
wetland, according to a study last year by Erwin Lamberts of the University of Twente in the Netherlands. Some water would continue to flow into the swamps in the wet season, and rains would maintain other areas. But at least a quarter of the Sudd and much of its floodplains would be lost. (The wetland is also threatened by oil prospecting. The French company Total is expected to resume drilling in the Sudd this month.)

There is another option — one that has not yet surfaced in political discussions and one that requires a real regional settlement on the future of the Nile.

Engineers have been so concerned about evaporation from the Sudd that they have forgotten about another major loss of water caused by the heat of the desert sun. Behind the High Aswan dam on the Egypt-Sudan border sits the huge Lake Nasser, Egypt’s water bank. But it is an amazingly inefficient bank. Each year, between 10 and 16 cubic kilometers of water evaporates from its surface. That is more than a quarter of the river’s entire flow some years — and around three times what the Jonglei canal might “save.”

The very structure that Egypt uses to control the Nile is also the biggest source of water loss on the river. This is not a new discovery. British imperial engineers always opposed building a giant dam at Aswan precisely for this reason. They wanted a series of dams in the mountains way upstream, probably in the deep ravines of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, where reservoirs would have a smaller surface area and the evaporative power of the sun would be less fierce.


The Damming of the Mekong:
Major Blow to an Epic River

Mekong River China
The Mekong has long flowed freely, supporting one of the world’s great inland fisheries, Fred Pearce writes. But China is building a series of dams on the 2,800-mile river that will restrict its natural flow and threaten the sustenance of tens of millions of Southeast Asians.
President Nasser, the father of modern Egypt, could never have countenanced that. He wanted an Egyptian dam on Egyptian soil to capture Egypt’s water. But that grand vision is now breaking down as his upstream neighbors call Egypt’s bluff on the Nile.

It would be expensive, and a major concession for Egypt to allow the main faucet on the river to move to another country — particularly its regional rival, Ethiopia. But the fact is that it would massively add to the amount of water flowing down the Nile.

So, just possibly, a grand settlement of the long dispute over who owns the Nile might create a more sensible solution, with common control of a single regulating dam in a place that makes the most hydrological sense. The shimmering edifice of the High Aswan — monument to hydrological folly — could be dismantled. And then there might be enough water left for nature, as well as for the people of the Nile.

POSTED ON 19 Jul 2010 IN Energy Policy & Politics Water Africa North America 


Instead of magnifying the problem, propose a solution. Would be better for everyone if that's the goal of the reporter. Else, .... you seek the opposite of peace, prosperity and development.

Posted by Hussaini on 19 Jul 2010

.... no one can stop Ethiopia from using her river Nile.

as Egypt is the gift of Nile, Nile is a gift of Ethiopia.

Posted by abay on 19 Jul 2010

In the late 1700s the Ethiopean King threaten the Egyptian Pasha with the Nile..200 years later it is still on going. Water is life for Egypt and if/when it comes down to it, and after all diplomatic efforts are exhausted, it will be war, one which no down stream African country can win. There is also talk that this is all politically motivated by Israel to pressure Egypt in extending the Nile water through Sinai to Israel itself. Whatever it is, we will wait and see but remember, if someone is choking life out of a nation, its very easy for a government to sell "war."

Posted by Ahmed on 19 Jul 2010

No down stream African Country can win? What do you mean by that Mr. Ahmed? Go and study history befor you write some thing illogical.

Ethiopia is one of African countries never colonialized. Ethiopia kiked Egypt ass more than two times. Don't talk about war we can just pollute the Nile at the end of our border with chemical an nuclar wast so don't try to threat us. Do you think it is fair your people get free water and Africans die lack of water.

Nile river is African resources, even if African are poor we buy Oil and Gas from Sudan & Egypt because it belongs to them. The same logic Nile river belongs to Africans should start charge Egypt and sudan for using Nile river. Otherwise Africans can do what ever they want including sale or diverting to their desert areas.

Posted by David on 19 Jul 2010

Thank you Fred Pearce for writing this article.

Who owns the Nile? That is a good question. Does Egypt Own The Nile? Never Never Never. Africans own The Nile River. Africans are the sources of Nile not Egypt becuse of that Egypt can't be the owner.

Egypt has right on their natural resources oil and Gas. African too have the right on their river Nile.

Posted by David on 19 Jul 2010

Egypt can not survive without Nile, however Egypt have no right to say Nile is only used by them. And I don't think Ethiopian Prime Mister will go to war over NILE even though Nile can do so much things in Ethiopia and even Africa. And Not because Meles don't have the power, because of so many other things that i don't even know about it. and another thing, lets forget about the war and focus what we can change in Africa, such as taking down unwelcome rulers and their supporters.

Posted by Fereon on 19 Jul 2010

We (Ethiopians) have got noting to lose, we are dying from drought and Egypt involvement in any anti Ethiopian development activities from lobbying countries (companies) not to fund our projects to supporting instability on the horn of Africa. The last thing to do for Egypt is trying to bribe and bully us.

Posted by Yohannes on 20 Jul 2010

I don't think that Egypt can threaten any upstream countries with legal action. If they haven't done so, so far, it's because they have no chance of winning their case. Nothing in international law can justify Egypt to have exclusive rights over a river, by a treaty signed during the colonial period, without consulting any of the upstream countries, except Sudan.

Posted by fre on 20 Jul 2010

The problem for Nile water is Egypt's politically brag position not to come to round table and talk with the real owners which in turn emanated from the fear that if title ownership is transferred to the natural and legal beholder, Egypt’s politicians assume that they loose their ….ground. That is why they always suggest the non-sensible idea that the upper stream countries should use other sources like seasonal rains in the stead of Nile. While shouting this all the time, why not Egypt think about using the Mediterranean & Red sea waters as alternate means? That is why I call it non-sense.

The best, long lasting and the only remedy is at Egypt’s hand: to healthfully and respectfully acknowledge its position as beneficiary instead of owner of the Nile and come to the round table with this attitude.

Let peace be governing our earth!!

Posted by WTT on 20 Jul 2010

'Save the Southern Sudan Sudd wetlands, demolish the Awan Dam and build dams in the cooller Ethiopian Highlands' seems to be the message, I agree with Mr Pearse. The fact that Egyptians are writing check to the Southern Sudanese, is an attempt to bribe them is appalling. The whole world should wake up and protest the attempt to make this massive wetlands disappear by digging the ' infamous canal'. International Rivers and other responsible environmentalists should be aware of this devious plan of the Egyptians. Egypt and Ethiopia are the most important parties to this ' circus' and they should talk ' tete a tete' on this matter.

First and formost, Egypt should refrain from diverting waters from this massive wetlands so as to satisfy its selfish interests. Next, it should consider demolishing the Aswan Dam and consider building dams in Ethiopia which will stop the massive leakage due to evaporation amounting to a third of its ' illegal quota'. Mr Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia said it right' Egypt and Ethiopia' are in a marriage where a divorce isnt an option. Assuming that is true, i go further and advocate for a Confederation of these two Nations. This will not only save the Sudd wetlands but also allow more silt and water to the Delta as soon as the Dam at Aswan is liquidated and one or two or even three dams built in Ethiopian Highlands.

To make this ' unequal and troublesome marriage between Ethiopia and Egypt' all Ngos and the good scholar should prepare the blue print. Otherwise, the corrupt politicians in Juba will alllow the Wetlands to disappear and yet there wont be a ' solution' so to speak. Ethiopia has very little land ready for irrigation along the Blue Nile. Most efforts are meant to produce electricity which will also benefit Egypt. But the ' loss' of this massive wetlands in South Sudan will definitely be felt next door in Ethiopia. Ethiopia shouldn't allow such a project and should lobby the Southern Sudan autonomous politicians to refrain from doing so.

The World cannot afford the demise of the largest wetlands under any pretext. The British Imperial Engineers, a hundred years ago, refuted the building of a dam at Aswan and the considered the Jonglei Canal absurd. The more things change the more they stay the same. Stop the Jonglei Canal for the sake of Humanity. This canal will be a disaster for Ethiopia and the World. Ethiopia will suffer more if this wetland were to obliterated. I think the World has to come to its senses and stop this disastrous project and consider what the Brits concocted in the 19th century. What was right then is very much correct to this day.

I suggest Egypt and Ethiopia stop this ' cat and mouse game'. I wont mind a ' confederation' of these Elephants. The demise of the Sudd wetlands has unforeseen consequence for Ethiopia. I wont be surprised if much of the rain in the coffee producing areas of Ethiopia is the ' result of evaporation' from this region. Dear Mr Pearce, please do a follow up.

Posted by Next call on 20 Jul 2010

Rivers, lakes and oceans are the "blood vessels" of biosphere. We on the "developed" West are systematically blocking, polluting and drying these "blood vessels", so we could maintain our orgy of consumption. The people in the so-called "Third world" now also want to participate in this orgy. But the blood vessels are clogged.

Nile is not gift of Ethiopia, it is the gift of the gods, the gift of Earth, long before Ethiopia existed, long before first Men saw dawn in ancient Africa. Want solution? Return to the land. Respect the land and be thankful for it's gifts. The glitter of the West is darkening and will very soon fade to corruption.

Or you can take the water from Nile - and see hunger in a decade's time like was not seen before. There is no peace, or "prosperity" or "development" in pillaging of Earth.

Posted by DamirB on 20 Jul 2010

The most upfront and honest article I read so far on this issue. However, is there a political will from Egypt and its western backers to really find a win-win lasting solution for all the people of Nile and the river's longevity? That is to be seen.

Posted by Asratie Teferra on 20 Jul 2010

A great article!

As it is brilliantly put together by Mr. Pearce, the earlier suggestions of the British Engineers is the solution for the current issue as long as financing is possible and the three main nation’s (Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt) are cooperating to trusting each other and doing it together.

Per the article, British imperial Engineers always opposed building a giant dam at Aswan for reasons of water lose due to evaporation by Egypt's desert sun. They wanted a series of dams in the mountains way upstream, probably in the deep ravines of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, where reservoirs would have a smaller surface area and the evaporative power of the sun would be less fierce.

As such, Ethiopia’s upstream dam projects are now directly contributing for the storage of water that would have been lost at Aswan dam. Therefore, Egypt and Sudan shall be cooperating and developing good relationships and nurture mutual trust in order to be benefited from the power Ethiopia generates and the abandent potential for developing hugh farm lands that produce food using the waters from dam-overflows.

What many see as untrusting among these nation’s citizens is the role of religion. As long as governance is free of religion doctrines, fundamentalism is eradicated, democratic values are harnessed, and human rights are protected; the electric power that would be generated and the dam overflow irrigated farming that would be developed in the highlands of Ethiopia can feed the peoples of the three nations.

Posted by D. Getahun on 20 Jul 2010

Water may be life to Egypt but the Aswan Dam out the country on life support needlessly and the machine is draining the life out of the lower Nile reaches and delta.

Salt build up, destruction of fisheries, dependence on fertilizers, loss of delta agricultural land, bilharzia and associated medical costs...all lose-lose justifications for keeping Aswan.

Better to build a regional authority, remove aswan and restore a more natural flow regime to prevent, reduce and eliminate the above issues.

Posted by dave halo on 21 Jul 2010

Here's one of many crises around the world that cry out for systems-based, holistic governance. I had thought it was Obama's job to spearhead such a movement, but he seems only able (or willing) to slog it out for small, piecemeal bits of progress, not proportionate to global need.

All global crises are systemically intertwined and it would be very much easier to tackle them as a whole. I would like to see Yale Environment 360 focus on this issue.

Just for starters, where are the experts on river ecology worldwide?

Posted by Trevor Burrowes on 23 Jul 2010

While for over centuries Ethiopia could have affected Egypt but it didn't due to its good neighborliness. However, Egypt caused many troubles for Ethiopia, funding secessionist, lobbying the West so that Ethiopia will never develop, finally succeeded in breaking up part of Ethiopia region, Eritrea and still today creating anti Ethiopian and anti christian elements within and outside of Ethiopia. Please read from American Chronicle site the so called Professor Shamsaddin's propaganda against Christianity and Ethiopia. Enough is enough. Egypt never consider itself part of Africa but Middle East and therefore disregarded Africa. It is time for Egypt to be equal partners with other Africans especially with Ethiopia or face the consequences.

It will be interesting how Arab Leagues and the West are going to see this. Of course, Arab leagues will always be on the side of Egypt, the West will step back and see how it can benefit from this, especially where Israel is concerned. Since Israel and Egypt are allies because they benefit from each other, Israel most likely supports Egypt and of course the U.S will follow that. In the mean time, Ethiopia will once again continue to suffer this time in a very detrimental way due to climate change.

I hope Mr. Meles knows what he is doing especially at a current critical moment. He needs to turn to democracy and get the support of his people and really needs to welcome past and present leaders of Ethiopia in every sector to reach conclusion about the Nile issue. In addition, get friends of Ethiopia on his side, and get full support from other Africans. Any short sighted independent decisions could lead Ethiopia in a very dangerous situation.

Posted by True on 24 Jul 2010


Thanks for your informative comments. You have an excellent grasp of the political issue, and the need to get Africa solid with Ethiopia. But I also wonder if we could greatly reduce the roll of politics if we look at the Nile in the context of rivers everywhere. What is the fate of rivers worldwide, and how does that shed light on the Nile?

Posted by Trevor Burrowes on 26 Jul 2010

The easy part is eliminating the Aswan High Dam. Just be patient and Lake Nassar will fill with silt and the dam will become a simple weir without any storage capacity thus allowing the spring floods, with all their nutrient silt, to return to the valley.

The hard part is allocating water that is not there to all of the riparian owners. The United States is facing a similar problem with the waters of the Colorado River. The water was divided in the 1930’s on the basis of absolute volume instead of a percentage of available flow. The absolute volume available has been less than the amount available so a great legal battle has raged for years.

In my opinion the people that own the head water lands own the water and may do what they please with a much as they want. Prior appropriation by a Colonial Britain is an absurdity and should be ignored. If Egypt insists on some of the water they can pay the Sudanese and the Ethiopians for the privilege.

Posted by Greg Warner on 27 Jul 2010

I believe that the problem of the line is with the up stream countries. The reason they never used the Nile previously was not because of Egypt opposition but because of the lack of priority on their part to develop their coutnries. Egypt becomes a scapegoat for the lack of development. Let eh dams be built at a county level to irrigate the small farms for the benefit of peasants and lets see what Egypt will do.

Posted by woldegeorgis on 13 Dec 2010

This could get ugly as time moves on. Every Country has an economic situation to deal with so they will reach for anything of big value to utilize for their country.

Posted by rheem goodman on 09 Mar 2011

i think the egyptians forget there is life in ethiopia like themselves. they have no reason to stop us from building a dam on nile. if they need war i am sure ethiopia would destroy egypt from world map.
Posted by teddy on 11 Mar 2011

Egyptian do not think about the war because you made so many indirect wars in Ethiopia, every time you had high interference in all wars you also one and the biggest reasion to our poverty and disterbance but we protected our selves at long time now we know the enemyes if you make war infront thats easy to us. you read the history of Abysinia /Ethiopia before you would start any thing. may you have a big military forces but you would learn from Italian and the colleni countries we didn't give our liberties. I will continue to keep our rights ,even we will ask you exchange (water by oil) if you do not prepare your self to a good solution other wise what ever comes in our country no fear no change we have been living war we accustomed it.

We know, war is not a good solution to us. Thus, you select the best solution to win together you forget that arrogant principles any way what ever comes we will built our dams in a short time Ethiopian people rises for eliminate poverty and also obstacles so. You think more other wise we will work better to change the direction of the Abayee or you said Nile or we will built another irrgation damp no body can stop our efforts our resorces.

God will keep Ethiopia.

Posted by Mekuanent on 08 Apr 2011

Hydropolitics is a messy topic in general and when it is combined with postcolonial history is
causes more issues.

Egypt and Sudan were granted control of the Nile by their own colonizing power, Britain. This is not a valid argument and can therefore absolutely NOT be seen as a valid and binding contract because Britain has nothing to do with Ethiopia and never has. Ethiopia as we all know was never colonised but had its own issues with Italy, so how is it possible for a country (Britain) which was never involved in another country (Ethiopia) give owner ship of a river to other countries? If Egypt has control of the Nile water from the moment it crosses the border, Ethiopia should therefore have control of the water up to its own boarder. Ethiopia is not saying that it will deny any water reaching Sudan or Egypt, it is merely utilising its OWN water system to benefit itself (which is what Egypt is doing anyways).

Another issue regarding the Egyptian approach is the oasis irrigation projects which are taking place in the country. The Nile is being diverted to newly created desert cities to sustain artificially contsructed (and supported) cities which require A LOT of water also adding to the depletion of the Nile. This is, I believe, unjust and hypocritical! This is another example of Egypt being wasteful with an extremely precious resource.

Egypt has been mismanaging the Nile for decades now: building a dam, trapping minerals, eroding coast and destroying the delta and its eco system. The recent plans to ALTER nature in the Sudd is appalling and is being built without hindsight or foresight... merely now sight. Which in the long run (but probably not so far future) will cause the Sudanese and Egyptians serious water shortages. The river has flowed for thousands of years and has managed to sustain life in Sudan and Egypt. Throughout this time as it was, if Egypt does not recognize the trap it is setting for itself, its population will suffer. Water is an extremely valuable resource and has always been fought for, and it will be fought over as long as we (humans) need it and mismanage it.

Ethiopia is not planning on keeping ALL the water, merely utilising it to create electricity which the country is in need of. Everybody needs electricity, and gas and oil are not resources that are readily available in Ethiopia and importing them or buying electricity is incredibly expensive. Building the dam will help the country create capita which in turn it can use to improve the country and its infrastructure.

Everybody has the right to develop, which is what Ethiopia is doing. It is trying to use resources it has readily available to help its 75,000,000 inhabitants.

Final thought, Ethiopia is not a desert land like Egypt and Sudan, but a mountainous region of
beautiful green and FERTILE fields, its main reason for the dam not being agriculture... merely electricity.

Posted by Arikha Samson on 11 May 2011

God Bless Fred Pearce for your geninune and scientifc articles you produce. As you knew well writers and journalists of the west are not genine about this country and publishing journals and editions on the drought and famine of this country but not the cause. The cause of any mess in this country is Egypt and the so called Egyptian leaders were engaged in destablizing this country than ruling thier country for the mere reason of Nile. During 1984/85 more than a million people died of hunger, but the Egyptian leadership has donated nothing and were fueling the civil war and destabilzation of Ethiopia.

As Fred Pearce mention it scientifically, constructing big dams in Egypt soil is aggravating the evaporation and these people were doing thier best in jeopardizing Ethiopia acording to them the East African Chirstian Country. They have worked to deny access to sea by supporting the EPLF and offcourse they are successful but now the sea politics is out of date. Today, hydro-politics is the life of the people and you have to think twice that Ethiopia has now more than 80 million people and do this country generate power and feed the people. It is not the matter of utilization of Nile but it is the matter of survival. So Egyptian don't be cheated like what Mubarek was using the camofulage of Nile. The time is changed and we couldn't get benzine or oil for freey even in loans if you like it . So the Ethiopian government has now become two facades of same coin because of Nile as we were crying since my childhood for instance. So enough is enough and if you attmpt like what you did during the reign of Mubarek, it will be a dissater. God Bless Ethiopia

Posted by Mulubrhan Atsbha on 31 May 2011

Water can be a political weapon. That is why Kashmir could never be allowed to pass into the hands of Pakistan.

That is why the wars of the future will be over water and all it contains and means. The first shots were fired off the coast of Iceland during the Cod Wars in the Sixties. That is why Somalis have been forced to take the law into their own hands and resort to what we today call "piracy".

No one gives a damn that multi-national fishing ships have trawled all but the last remnants of fish life from Somali waters, leaving the coastal people virtually nothing to live on.

Posted by M. Rodriguez on 22 Aug 2011

I think Egypt should just sign the agreement before it is too late as there is no other possible way that this countries can agree and even Egypt can benefit most.

If the old strategy that Egypt to own the vito power? This is just a day dream because nations will prefer to face Egypt and feed themselves and die that die of hunger and leave poverty to the next generation.

If Egypt arogantly persue to say no no no then this deal might lead to a severe intractable loos and might rriversibly destroy the rlation and future mitual win win that will forsure affect Egypt.

No best way that the win win entebe agreement!


Posted by Getachew on 26 Aug 2011

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Posted by roger_harper on 31 Oct 2011

The disputed article, in which Egypt and Sudan want their historic rights guaranteed and the other governments prefer to a clause where each nation agrees "not to significantly affect the water security of any country" – has been left out of the agreement, for further discussion.

This, the upstream states hope, leaves the door open for Egypt and Sudan to join them before the one-year signing period closes.

Posted by Ovidiu P. on 21 Nov 2011

The fundamental problem is that there are far too many people in the region for the available resources, water and land.

The environmental problems caused by population overshoot are horrendous and this will probably be one of the first areas in the world where the coming resource wars will break out.

Posted by B. Collins on 30 Nov 2011

Why would Sadat make public declarations to send Nile waters to Israel in the face of powerful regional and national objections? Sadat may have been responding to Israeli pressure.

In the 1970s, Israel sent arms and advisors to the Ethiopian governments of Haile Selassie and
Mengistu Haile Mariam to aid in their battles with Somalia over the Ogaden region and also to
support their internal battle with the Eritrean rebels. Israeli aid to Ethiopia may have been a signal that Sadat couldn't ignore.

It's a wierd world we're living in!

Posted by Cioara on 01 Dec 2011

Egypt can not afford war with its middle east problems and its internal divisions. The fact is that
ethopia has they most undisputed, powerfull and nationalistic army in africa. plus war is illogical, why fight a war with no reasoning grow up both egypt and ethopia are leading countries in africa they should set an example for other african countries on how to settle disputes. Egypt can't demand what is not there's, its impossible !!

Posted by JJ on 26 Dec 2011

Ethiopia had been a nation plagued by famine and poverty. Nearly half of its population lived below poverty line. But the currently there is glimmer of hope. There are signs of development.

The great effort of Ethiopian masses to win poverty has been amazing. As a result
Ethiopians have begun building the Great Renaissance Dam, a historic dam, with 5200 MW power capacity, the greatest in Africa, which is greater than even Aswan Dam.The dam shall be solution for those 90% Ethiopians who have no access to electric power.The dam is environmentally sound and has no negative effect. So, I recommend all downstream and upstream countries to collaborative in the work instead of knocking the doors of donors to stop donations for the project.

Finally it is inevitable that this dam will be accomplished and will be a landmark in the history of Nile problem and will show the world that all upstream countries have right and are capable to use the Nile Water.

The downstream countries should learn from this that only diplomacy and collaboration a solution instead of threatening other which is unacceptable in 21st century.

Posted by MENGISTU ARBA on 03 Feb 2012

Under the agreement signed by five countries, each state's share of the Nile Basin water will depend on variables such as population, contribution to the river's flow, climate, social and economic needs, and, crucially, current and potential uses of the water – a factor which will heavily favour Egypt and Sudan.

So yes, the disputed article, in which Egypt and Sudan want their historic rights guaranteed and the other governments prefer to a clause where each nation agrees "not to significantly affect the water security of any country" – has been left out of the agreement, for further discussion.

Anyway, like somebody said above - every country has an economic situation to deal with so they will reach for anything of big value to utilize for their country, hopefully!

Posted by Johnny on 17 Feb 2012

What is not highlighted here is that Sudan has built another large dam at the 4th Cataract, and is planning further dams at the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th, plus one further upstream on the Atbara. Speaking intuitively, I would have thought there would be HUGE evaporation losses from this succession of reservoirs in the hottest, driest part of Sudan, which would make moot any saving on the White Nile, or on the Blue in Ethiopia. Are there any figures available for this?

Posted by Whinter on 02 Mar 2012

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Fred Pearce is a freelance author and journalist based in the UK. He is environment consultant for New Scientist magazine and author of numerous books, including When The Rivers Run Dry and With Speed and Violence. His latest book is The Coming Population Crash and Our Planet’s Surprising Future. In earlier articles for Yale Environment 360, Pearce has written about the damming of the Mekong River and the the Copenhagen climate talks.



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