By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times
The Nile, Egypt’s lifeline in the desert, comes under threat
November 11, 2012
Poor African capitals are increasingly challenging Cairo for the river’s water, without which Egypt’s economy would wither and die.
|Egyptians sit near the Nile River at sunset in Cairo. Neighboring African countries at the river’s source, notably Ethiopia, no longer feel bound by colonial-era agreements and are moving to siphon away larger shares of water for electricity, irrigation and business to meet demands of burgeoning populations. (John Moore / Getty Images / February 5, 2011)|
CAIRO — Overwhelmed by cascading economic and political problems since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, this nation teeters from within even as it biggest threat may lie hundreds of miles away in the African highlands. Buried in the headlines is the future of the Nile River — and thus the fate ofEgypt itself.
Mubarak long neglected the security danger posed by other nations’ claims to the timeless pulse that provides 95% of this desert country’s water, without which its delta farmlands would wither and its economy die. As poor African capitals increasingly challenge Cairo, however, the struggle has become one of the most pressing foreign policy tests for Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi.
African countries at the river’s source, notably Ethiopia, no longer feel bound by colonial-era agreements on water rights and are moving to siphon away larger shares of water for electricity, irrigation and business to meet demands of burgeoning populations.
It is a skirmish involving diplomats, engineers and veiled threats of war over geography’s blessings and slights and how nations in a new century will divvy up a river on whose banks civilizations have risen and tumbled.
“All of Egyptian life is based on the Nile. Without it there is nothing,” said Moujahed Achouri, the representative for theUnited Nations‘ Food and Agricultural Organization in Egypt.
Morsi’s acknowledgment of the water crisis and his desire to reach a compromise to protect his country’s strategic and historical claim is evident: The Islamist leader has visited key Nile countries twice since his inauguration in June, and his prime minister, Hesham Kandil, is a former water and irrigation minister with connections to officials in African governments. An Egyptian delegation recently toured the region, listening to how Cairo might help build hospitals and schools in villages and jungles.
An advisor to the president quoted in Al Ahram Weekly said this of Morsi: “The man was shocked when he received a review about the state of ties we have with Nile basin countries. The previous regime should be tried for overlooking such a strategic interest.”
For decades, Egypt had concentrated on problems closer to home, including keeping the Arab-Israeli peace and tending to wars from Lebanon to Iraq. Mubarak, who survived a 1995 assassination attempt by Islamic extremists in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, had paid little attention to East Africa. But his regime was adamant — at one point hinting at military action — in preserving the existing Nile treaties.
That echoed a warning from his predecessor, President Anwar Sadat, in 1979: “The only matter that could take Egypt to war again is water.”
In a 1929 treaty and through other pacts, Egypt and its southern neighbor, Sudan, were granted the bulk of the Nile’s flow. The logic — filtered through decades of politics and power struggles — was that Egypt could not survive without the river. Nile basin countries, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, have seasonal rains and other water sources.
But economic pressure and increasing demand for energy and development have turned African countries’ attention to the Nile. Since 2010, Ethiopia, which now gets only 3% of its water from the Nile, and five other upstream countries have indicated they would divert more water and no longer honor Egypt’s veto power over building projects on the river.
The biggest challenge to Cairo is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Experts estimate that the hydropower project, which is under construction and is expected to cost at least $4.8 billion, could reduce the river’s flow to Egypt by as much as 25% during the three years it would take to fill the reservoir behind the dam. The project faces a number of potential setbacks and lost its biggest proponent when Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died in August.
Ethiopia has sought to reassure Cairo that Egypt’s annual share of 55.5 billion cubic meters of Nile water — about two-thirds of the river’s flow — will not be disrupted and that the new dam may provide low-cost electricity to its neighbors. But the Egyptians are suspicious.
“Egypt has entered a stage where its resources are depleting and population is rapidly increasing,” said Hani Raslan, an expert on the Nile basin for Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “If the dam is complete … this will mean Ethiopia will turn into an enemy for Egypt because it will essentially threaten the country’s safety, development and livelihood of its people.”
He added, “Egypt would legally have the right to defend itself by going to war.”
The struggle over the river highlights decades of strained relations. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was quoted as saying before Morsi’s visit in October: “Despite the Nile River supporting livelihoods of millions of Egyptians from the ancient times to date, none of the country’s presidents has ever visited Uganda to see the source of this lifeline.”
Egypt and the other Nile nations are seeking to calm the rhetoric.
Officials say a resolution may include Cairo entering into long-term economic and energy resource agreements with neighboring capitals. The Egyptian delegation that recently toured the region included doctors and representatives of food banks, hospitals and charities.
Egypt, however, faces deep economic problems and is trying to attract foreign investment, which dropped sharply during last year’s uprising and ensuing political unrest.
“Morsi is trying to send signals to the African world that Egypt is opening up now, that he wants to improve relations and increase cooperation,” Raslan said. Morsi’s visits to Africa “are all just gestures.”
“No real agreements have been reached yet,” he said. “More needs to be done. Egypt wants and needs to reach its influence in the region.”
The essence of the Nile conflict is poor nations — Egypt and Ethiopia — needing the river for similar reasons. Ethiopia, which has experienced strong economic growth in recent years, wants to boost electricity output while spurring agriculture and development. Those needs also resonate to the north, but Egypt, which has no other water source, faces more dire prospects.
The crisis is certain to force Egypt, where regulations are tangled in bureaucracy and often ignored, to improve water conservation among the nearly 30% of its population that depends on farming for its livelihood. Much of the Nile Delta is made up of small family farms that for centuries have grown wheat, corn and rice with little environmental concern. This attitude and a growing population, which may jump from 82 million to 150 million by 2050, have put further strains on the river.
“Water policies in Egypt have to be long-range,” said Achouri, the U.N. official. “If you want farmers to stop using too much water for irrigation, alternatives and other incentives should be made available to them. Farmers right now cannot make a living without the Nile.”
A possible solution is rotating away from water-intensive crops, such as rice, and shifting to increased wheat production. Egypt, where the word “bread” also means “life,” is the world’s No. 1 importer of wheat. Agricultural experts say reducing rice production while increasing wheat yields would conserve water and meet the country’s food needs.
Such a scenario may be forced upon farmers if the Nile’s flow is curtailed and irrigation canals become parched. Egypt’s water and irrigation minister, Mohamed Bahaa El Din Saad, said recently that overpopulation, farming and other water uses have left the country with a “water deficit” of billions of gallons.
“More than 90% of the water for Egypt’s 90 million people is coming in from the Nile,” Achouri said. “The only way out is for more efficient use.”
Our efforts to stop the Ethiopian Dictatorial Death Dams have started giving fruits internationally while in Ethiopia it is in the very embryonic state.
Recently the Chileans struggle to stop the damming the Andes- Patagonia and that of the Turkish anti dam revolt have given a hope to the people of the horn of Africa. In Kenya the manifestation against the dams is permitted officially while in Ethiopia it a crime against the regime of Melese Zenawie, nobody even consider criticizing rather than blindly supporting his megalomaniac Dams of destructions. China after destroying the region of the three dams has come to destroy the only sources of live water in Easter Africa by proposing and financing these death dams to Ethiopian dictator. Resistance is coming from around the world to resisting these destructive dams.
Here is the a recent article on CBS world watch on the Negative effect of the damming in Ethiopia written by Celia Hatton of CBS which reads as follows:-
“It’s a story that truly spans the globe: Activists from all over the world, including San Francisco, are trying to stop the construction of a dam in Ethiopia financed by a Chinese bank.
The Gibe 3 Dam is in the early phases of construction on Ethiopia’s powerful Omo River, using
“It‘s the most beautiful place, I believe, on the planet,” said Kennedy, who kayaks there every year. “I –don’t know any place like Patagonia.“
Robert F. Kennedy Jr, a lawyer for the US-based National Resources Defense Council, appealed to Pinera to call off the project
Chilean environmentalists are fighting to stop the deadly dams to be constructed in the Andean glaciers to the Pacific Ocean through green valleys and fjords, while the Ethiopian dictator is preparing to build a deadly dam that will endanger million of lives of the riparian nations. The Pacified Ethiopian are forced to endorese the Death dam which will be the instrument to sell their fertile lands.
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In contrary to Ethiopia Chile is a nation with its energy-intensive mining industry clamoring for more power and living standards improving, while Ethiopia is damming its rivers for the land Grabbers not even the local energy consumption. This $7-billion project to dam two of the world’s wildest rivers for electricity has won environmental approval Monday from a Chilean government commission despite a groundswell of opposition while the Ethiopian dictatorial regime is not even take any measure to seek any environmental tests.
It was hidden as project X by the Ethiopian Dictator. The Chili and political appointees in the democratically elected President Sebastian Pinero’s government – concluded a three-year environmental review by approving five dams on the Baker and Pascua rivers in Aysen, a mostly road less region of remote southern Patagonia where rainfall is nearly constant and rivers plunge which will definitively destroy the last remaining wonders of the Earth.
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The Chilean dams all together could generate 2.75 gig watts, nearly a third of central Chile’s current capacity, within 12 years while the megalomaniac Ethiopian Nile Death dam is suppose to produce Upon completion, will have an electric generation capacity of 6,000MW, three times more than the combined capacity of all Ethiopia’s existing dams.
When we go back to Chile the dams would drown 14,000 acres (5,700 hectares), require carving clear-cuts through forests, and eliminate whitewater rapids and waterfalls that attract ecotourism. Aysen region, while the Ethiopian gigantic dam will cover two time the Lake Tana which is from 3,000 to 3,500 km² according to the rainy seasons.
In Chile the Dam would destroy habitat for the endangered Southern Huemul deer: Fewer than 1,000 of the diminutive animals, while in the Nile Valley of Ethiopia an estimated Number of Flora and Fauna will be lost forever to come. In the contrary to the Chilean the Ethiopian dam will endanger the Lives of the people in Nile basin countries.
The Investors have spent Chile over $220 million on the project so far, but opposition has grown to 61 per cent of Chileans according to the latest Ipsos Public Affairs poll, and the government is concerned about a backlash. The Ethiopians even do not have a true democracy like that of Chile and are forced to accept whatever the Dictator dictates which Chile experienced a despotic regimes of the General in her recent past.
The Ethiopian the dam is contracted by Italian company Salini Costruttori for €3,350bln ($4,916bln). The Dam will be the biggest hydroelectric plants ever built in Africa, producing 5250 MW. Apart from forced contributions by Ethiopian institutions and citizens, there are serious suspicions that the Ethiopian Government will not be able to fund the work.
“The provenience of most funding for this and other Ethiopian Dams is utterly unclear,” declared an ex-officer of the Italian Cooperation in Ethiopia who refused to be credited.
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Chile is the world’s largest copper producer and e recently approved Latin America’s largest coal-fired plant, to power a mine near the northern deserts. Two other coal plants received the okay on Friday. Thus its power grid has recently been under increased strain compared to the Ethiopian embryonic mining industry, where the dam is destined just for the land grabbers. Again the Chilean government is not selling its fertile land for land Grabbers while Ethiopia has already sold most of its cultivable land to the foreign investors at the same time over 3 million Ethiopian are starving of death.
In contrary to the Ethiopian death Dam which will end killing millions, the Chilean HidroAysen is suppose to help Chile to receive the cheapest, cleanest electricity possible? Though Several Chilean energy experts also dismissed solar as uncompetitive and years away from relevancy, a huge US$2.2 billion, 2.6 gigawatt solar project being built in the Mojave desert with private money and US government guarantees The latter will be the best example to the Ethiopians to learn from rather than building a destructive death dam and create undue conflict with the neighboring countries.
Great dam are highly environmental risks and catastrophic with moving tectonic regions and earth quake prone countries like Ethiopia and Chile. Westerners that had build greet dams in the past have proved highly risky to the surrounding population as seen in China and the Us in recent years with the increasing floods and earth quakes.
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