Getachew Wondafrash Negate ( Ir.)
Since time immemorial Ethiopia feeds Egypt through the main Nile with 86% of her fresh water and thousands of tonnes of fertile soil; but can’t feed its children. Not only Ethiopia, but all the other upstream riparian countries have been greedily denied of their fair and equitable share by Egypt and Sudan for centuries. Ethiopia at the forefront, the 9 majority riparian upstream Africans have said “enough is enough”, and are now determined to catch up to use their precious common resource-the Nile river to eradicate the chronic poverty they are indulged in .
The Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) built on the Blue Nile, is the biggest hydroelectric project in Africa and the 10th in the world. This life changing magnificent and historical infrastructure will mutually benefit the 400million Nile basin citizens and the region by producing up to 6000MW electricity. It is going to transform the economic development of Ethiopia, that of the region, the riparian countries including Sudan and Egypt too. Unfortunately Egypt left no stone unturned to sabotage its construction and operation, turn it to be the most politicized development project rather than exploiting the ample opportunity for almost half a billion population.
Ethiopia being the 2nd most populous country in Africa ,has been a victim of recurrent drought and famine, till it was once mentioned in a dictionary as an example of drought and famine. This is why all Ethiopians takes GERD as their life saving investment, a unifying national pride and a dream coming true for more than 110million people. An elementary school Ethiopian pupil has been a stakeholder to bring GERD nearly to its completion. Every Ethiopia realizes that GERD is the present and the future generation’s existence depends solely on it, not oil or nuclear power.
There is no life without Water. Any nation without adequate water security for all its most crucial uses (drinking water supply, sanitation, irrigation, electricity) will face severe existential consequences. As fresh water becomes scarcer, the population blooming, mutually beneficial agreements to fair and reasonable management of the Niles water is the key.
Arguments over transboundary rivers are globally common and remain to be fairly and reasonably addressed. China is building more than 60 new hydroelectric dams on the Yarlung Tsango River, which originates in Tibet and flows to Bangladesh and India. The collardo River in the US costs Mexico water, China and Tibet control waters on a number of rivers flowing downstream to India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Turkey has pursued dam constructions not only for hydropower, but for irrigation and water storage in the Tigris-Euphrates Basin. This has given Turkey leverage over Iraq’s and Syria’s water supplies. The same goes with India and Pakistan on Indus river basin. All of these dams and others 286 transboundary rivers on transboundary rivers have produced political and economic miracles. The Ethiopia’s Nile river will not remain exceptional.
Ethiopia has been very compromising and generous for Sudan and Egypt. It’s unavoidable that she now is making up for lost hundreds of years, since it is a matter of not only development, but more of an existential.
GERD is a hydroelectric power project which doesn’t hold water back permanently. The river will have a natural flow after rotating the turbines, which will triple the present electricity available, which is hardly needed for the consumption of the vastly growing population, manufacturing and industrialization. In addition to the production and export of cheap electricity to its neighbours, promoting green economy, it will strengthen Ethiopia’s position as a regional (pan-African) power. This green development would also benefit both downstream nations by assisting in avoiding unexpected flooding, regulating water supplies for irrigated agriculture, sediment control and further provide assured electricity supplies for millions of Africans.
The Nile Basin and its benefits to its citizens.
The Nile river is a jewel of a river whose water is shared by eleven countries; namely Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt. The Nile has two major tributaries, the Blue Nile (Tequer Abay), and the White Nile. The Blue Nile river Basin which is 85% -90 % of the total surface water of Ethiopia, contributes 86% of the total flow of the main Nile. Sometimes called as “the chocolate brown river” carries hundreds of tons of rich fertile soils to Sudan and Egypt ends at a large Delta that empties into the Mediterranean Sea. The contribution of Egypt and Sudan for the Nile flow is zero. The obsolete colonial treaties between these two countries, allocated 55.5BCM (66%) for Egypt, 18.5BCM ( 22%) for Sudan and 10BCM (12%)for evaporation. It was made with no consent of all the remaining 9 riparian countries.
Saddening and embarrassing to the world has been observing the strong opposition by Egypt and sometimes Sudan not only on GERD but on any project like Shin Yanga drinking water supply for conveying water from lake Victoria for a villages hit by drought and thirst. They threatened to strike it. The quantity of water was less than 1 BCM and its impact would not exceed a hundred MCM. These lack of sensitivity and lack of appreciation of the needs of the other Nile riparian countries will never be tolerated anymore.
It remains odd of Sudan and Egypt to demand the Nile Basin nations to notify them of any type of project they could think of, while both Sudan and Egypt have not been consulting any of the riparian countries. As a matter of fact Egypt has not conducted an environmental studies before the erection of the Aswan High Dam and number of projects on the Nile.
This one way road, and the hundreds of years old bilateral colonial treats (1929 and 1959), had not been accepted and objected particularly by Ethiopia from the very beginning.
They should be forgotten and never taken as legitimate reasons since they don’t consider the fair interests of all the remaining 9 riparian countries.
What are the benefits of GERD to the Nile Basin citizens and the region.
The water resources of the Basin is enough to support its people and the region if fairly and equitably used. The international community and financial institutions have failed to assist the riparian countries to mutually benefit their water resources for consumptive uses and hydropower potential to alleviate poverty and better life for the present and coming generation of the region. Sadly enough financial institutions like World bank and IMF have not played the important role to enhance the relationship of all the riparian countries to mutually benefit from the Nile water. They in fact favoured Egypt by maintaining the absurd colonial quota and prevent Ethiopia and other riparian nations from getting any financial support or loans for all projects on the Nile river.
GERD, although it is an Ethiopian’s national project wholly financed by the Ethiopian people, Ethiopian feel it as the beginning of Africa’s economic renaissance and a precedent for a fair and reasonable utilization of this African river to the benefit the people of the upper stream nations. Neighbouring countries like Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, including Sudan, South Sudan, and would exceptionally benefit from the cheap power generated by GERD.
Considerable efforts are being done to minimize potential sources of conflicts and enhance transboundary cooperation. Cooperation in water governance requires institutions and legal instruments. The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) was created in 1999 to help to reach the comprehensive framework agreement (CFA) for an all-inclusive use of the river. Egypt has been unwilling to be part of it. The CFA signed in May 2011 by six of the Nile Basin Countries including Ethiopia aims at establishing a permanent River Nile Basin Commission through which member countries of the basin will collectively participate in the water management of this precious resource. The six countries that have signed the CFA have agreed to proceed with a process to ratify the treaty into their legislation. Egypt and Sudan have persistently refused to sign the agreement. Simply this will be the end of their hegemonic control over the whole of the Nile water. They have totally neglected the opportunities and prospects of cooperation to use Nile to benefit all basin states.
What are the benefits of GERD to Ethiopia?
Other than being a symbol of integration for the Nile basin countries, Ethiopia’s dependency on the Nile is more than answering its developmental questions. It has to do with the life and death of its people living in extreme poverty. Ethiopia’s population will increase to 113,8 million (19 million more than Egypt) in 2025, and 186,45 million ( 73 million more that Egypt) in 2050. The construction of GERD will increase Ethiopia’s capital stock by about 10%. (Tewodros Negash Kahsay-2017)
Being a victim of recurrent drought and famine, once mentioned as an example of famine in a dictionary. About 10 million people yearly need direct food aid at this moment. Half a million immigrate from one region of Ethiopia to another region.
Ethiopia’s population will surpass Egypt by 76Million in 2050.(World bank study).To exist and continue as a country and make a progress Ethiopia has legitimate right to utilize her own sovereign natural resources and aspire to feed her people. The utilization of the Blue Nile water for their further existence after centuries of sabotage has tied the hearts and minds of every 101million Ethiopian citizen with “yes it can be done” mentality.
Ethiopia being the 2nd most populous country, economically growing, militarily stronger, improved national capacities and promising participation of the Ethiopian diaspora in the development of their birth country, makes Ethiopia determined to feed her citizens. Ethiopians of all corner of life have decisively said “ it’s my dam” and no longer accept being bullied by Egypt and her allies for the nations water entitlement.
Electricity generation for industry and domestic use once GERD is operational
The country has an acute shortage of electricity. With 66% of its population not connected to the grid, the chronic Energy poverty has left her peoples without access to adequate healthcare, leaving health centres and emergencies forced to treat patients in the dark.
The electricity consumption 57kWh (3% of the consumption in USA) is the lowest and below the average 162 KWh of sub-Sahara ( Africa Development Bank-2015). Today 27% of the population has access to electricity grid and 96% of the population still relying on traditional biomass for cooking (Tafere Heluf Aleme) .The electric coverage in Ethiopia is under a minimum point (Worldbank report of 2015). The main objective of GERD project is aiming to provide enough and cheap hydropower generation. In order to exist as a nation, develop its agriculture, health, industry, education, and play a remarkable role in the horn of Africa’s stability, it has no other choice than exploiting her hydropower potential on the Blue Nile. When fully operational GERD could increase the countries hydropower production by more than 500% ( Tewodros Negash Kahsay-2017). The dire power need of Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti and other neighbouring countries would be meet sufficiently.
According to World Bank 2018 data Egypt has a 100% coverage, Kenya 75%, Sudan 60% access to electricity while only 45% of Ethiopians (60million people) have electricity coverage. (Belachew Tesfa).
Furthermore GERD is becoming a hotspot for tourism and recreation, as well as an estimated potential of 7000 tonnes of fish per year.
What are the benefits of GERD to downstream countries- Egypt and Sudan?
A water resources potential of a country is the total amount of its surface water and ground water together. In fact Egypt is not a water poor country. Egypt has 200,000 BCM fresh water while Ethiopia has only 30 BCM. The ground water potentials of Egypt is 7000BCM, and that of Ethiopia122BCM. (Fekadu Felene)
GERD can hold back 86% siltation and sedimentation (consequently longer life for downstream dams) in Sudan and Egypt, and have enormous contribution by reducing the cost to remove mud from the irrigation canals. This could save Sudan from spending 50 million USD for dredging costs. 800,000 to 1.3million ha more irrigable land will be reclaimed as GERD becomes fully operational. (Tafere Heluf)
GERD impounding could increase the hydro power generation of Sudan by 6.8%. In the operational stage of GERD Sudan’s capital stock could increase by 3%.
GERD would remarkably contribute in the water conservation of the Nile water and abuse use of this precious water by reducing 10.8 BCM/year to 9.5 BCM/year at High Aswan Dam. The reservoir storage capacity of GERD could reduce the HAD evaporation losses by 1.9km3/year.
The creation of a regulated flow in the Blue Nile and the main Nile will increase 3.4% gain in irrigation water supply in Egypt (Blackmone and Whittinglon 2008),5% improvement in water efficiency ( Kahsay et. Al 2015) by ensuring a more continuous irrigation water supply than is the case without GERD.
On 4 December , 2013 the Sudanese president after consulting his ministers and advisers for a long time has found out that GERD would serve Sudan’s best interest. If it was not for International pressure from Egypt, USA, and the Arab world, Sudan does not stand by Egypt since its direct and development interests lie with Ethiopia.
The Nile river is the only transboundary river of the 280 transboundary rivers in the world, whereby a water allocation is planned to be based on “self-declared” veto power by only two downstream nations Egypt and Sudan.
Despite the Historical facts that Ethiopia has contributed a lot for the existence of Egypt’s(Arab’s) lives and faith, Egypt in particular has been proposing ranges of hostile interferences, short sighted destructive plans, spending millions on proxy wars, fabricating lies that Ethiopia is up to making Egypt thirsty and hungry. These and threats that Egypt will bomb the dam will definitely not bring Ethiopia to her knees.
The unintentionally broadcasted “secret” program recorded in 2013 in the Egyptian parliament shows how the enmity, monopolistic, unquenchable thirst for every drop of the Nile water is deep-rooted. Why this greediness?! “Water Imperialism” is never African. Ubuntu is the only option.
GERD would promote the possibility for increased mutual benefits, and sets a precedent for future basin projects. GERD is existential for Ethiopia for all reasons. It’s a fight against her no.1 enemy-Chronic poverty. while Egypt is self-sufficient with 9 billion tons reserve(@AlsisiOfficial) Ethiopia has the difficulty to feed her children and get them out of the darkness.
The Nile Basin is a transforming resource potential and must be for the well-being of all the 400 million people of the Nile Basin. The Renaissance Dam is a major test of Egypt willing to share water equitably and fairly, and effectively denounce its veto power and part with all those obsolete colonial agreements.
It is fair to mention that the Institute of Security Studies( ISS) has stated in November 2008 that Egypt being frustrated to conquer ( colonize ) the source of the Blue Nile, Egypt’s policy has been to systematically prevent all other riparian countries from equitable ( fair ) and reasonable utilization of the Nile waters. Promotion of political instabilities in Ethiopia, in the region and the Horn of Africa, systematically labouring to fan flames and aggravate conflicts.
Ethiopia does not have a legal obligation to seek the approval of Egypt or Sudan to utilize her Blue Nile waters. Egypt believes that the politically unstable Ethiopia and its disintegration would sever its interest. Egyptian leaders assume that when Ethiopia is wrecked by war it cannot focus its efforts on her development.
The biggest stumbling Blok is not shortage of water for the basin citizens, but greed and geo-political rivalry. On the contrary Ethiopia has been exhaustively striving to forge lasting spirit of cooperation towards enhancing the use of Nile waters. Unfortunately not satisfactory response from the Sudan and Egypt.
The downstream country Egypt must develop have a change of mindset to integrated Water-energy-Food food all African countries of the Nile basin. By complimenting each other and making use of other water resources of the basin would promote the possibility for increased mutual benefits and sets a precedent for future basin projects. Water trading, between riparian countries is a common practise. A fair deal like between Canada and USA is another option.
Egypt cannot tell other riparian countries that it has the right to waste the Nile River water, and countries like Ethiopia have no right to exploit her own water even if her people are starving to death. The many ugly forms and pathways of blackmailing Ethiopia would not be long-lasting .While Egypt at this very moment is inaugurating more new irrigation projects in Sanai desert, and allegedly selling the Niles fresh water to supply irrigation water to Negev deserts, while absurdly complain for incomparable amount of water to use it for GERD is greediness to its fullest. This is not only “water imperialism” but colonialism of the 21st century.
Rather than being a source of tension Egypt and Ethiopia can eat together on the Nile basin. The effort by Ethiopia to employ Nile to justifiable benefit of all peoples of the Basin should be supported by the international community, international organizations and major powers. It must be accompanied by basin- wide agenda and multi-national cooperation and a cooperative management of Nile Basin management.
The arrangements that has been taken to utilize the water resources of Zambezi and the Senegal rivers are examples what we Africans specially Egypt and Sudan can learn from and should to address the challenges of unfair distribution of water. Otherwise the Nile basin countries cannot achieve the Millennium Development Goals without a fair utilization of the Nile Water.
Water trading as it’s also experienced between US and Canada is an example to follow that riparian countries sell their equitable share to the most needy basin countries. Absurdly Egypt sells Nile’s water via salaam canal to Gulf states and Israel.
The Nile river is by its birth an African natural resource like the continent’s oil, gold or diamonds. GERD could be named Great African Renaissance Dam (GARD). Any dispute on the continents water resource must always primarily be dealt by Africans, the riparian countries, the African Union, and African institutions. What has the Nile water to do with Arabs or the USA?! Do we Africans have something to do with their oil? Any foreign involvement is sheer superiority complex and a continuation of their colonial mindset.
As an Australian independent research institute Future Directions International (FDI) concluded “ It is critical that Egypt accepts that it is no longer in apposition to bully upstream states into forgoing their water entitlement. The geostrategic framework of the Nile basin is changing and Egypt cannot continue to act unchallenged as the regional hegemony”
Egypt’s insisting for the very absurd quota in GERD agreement is nothing less that modern colonialism and international robbery. Ethiopia can’t stand anymore that Egypt playing dirty games by keeping us down, allocating 10% for gulf food security-selling Ethiopia’s fresh water when Ethiopia is thirsty and in extreme poverty.
Egypt’s historical complaints has nothing to do with being a water poor country. As a matter of fact Egypt has more water resources potential than all other riparian countries! The largest ground water potential of Nubian ground water reserve of Egypt (which could supply for its water resources need for 500 to 1000 years,( Zerihun Abebe). Using solar energy to desalinate the immense Red sea water for irrigation, utilizing the huge water reservoir behind Aswan (enough for 3 years water demand of the nation’s consumption), treating sewage water (which can provide 4 BCM), and using new irrigation methods to save water are the untouched responsibilities of Egypt.