avoiding a water war in the nile basin
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- AVOIDING A WATER WAR IN THE NILE BASIN DAVID H. SHINN, Ph.D. ADJUNCT PROFESSOR ELLIOTT SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
- Why the Concern?
- Water scarcity is single biggest threat to global food security.
- There is little water left when Nile reaches Mediterranean.
- Conflict most likely when downstream riparian is highly
- dependent on river water and is strong in comparison to
- upstream riparians.
- Egypt has threatened war if Ethiopia tries to block the Nile flow.
- Ethiopia responded no country can prevent it from using Nile water.
- Egypt says it will not give up its share of Nile water.
- Most upstream countries are seeking to use more water before it reaches Egypt.
- Water is limited; riparian needs are growing; potential for conflict is real.
- Basic Basin Facts:
- Nile is worlds longest river4,145 miles.
- Nile basin is little larger than India.
- Start of annual flood in Egypt is fairly predictable.
- But volume of annual flood varies enormously and is totally unpredictable.
- Average annual flow of Nile at Aswan from 1870 to 1988 was 88 billion cubic meters.
- Late 1970s through 1987 were
- unusually low flow years.
- Annual flow of Nile measured at Aswan
- has diminished significantly since 1900s.
- Nile produces only 14 percent of Mississippis annual discharge.
- About 200 million people live in
- Nile Basin.
- Population in basin predicted to double between 1995 and 2025.
- Agriculture biggest water consumer.
- Riparian Countries:
- Ten riparian countries; most important
- Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda.
- Others are Kenya, Tanzania, Congo,
- Rwanda, Burundi, and Eritrea.
- 95 percent of Egyptians live in Nile
- Valley and depend on river for fresh water.
- Nile water is life or death issue for Egypt.
- Nile is also crucial for Sudan.
- 86 percent of water reaching Aswan
- comes from Ethiopia.
- 14 percent arrives via White Nile from
- Uganda and southern riparian states.
- Riparian State Basic Statistics: Pop. Pop. Average Gross Millions Growth Annual National 2003 Rate % growth Income 1995-mr GDP Per capita 1995-mr $ 2003 Egypt 68 1.9 4.9 1390 Sudan 34 2.3 6.2 460 Ethiopia 69 2.5 4.5 90 Uganda 25 2.8 6.3 250 Congo 53 2.2 -2.4 100 Kenya 32 2.3 1.7 400 Tanzania 36 2.5 4.8 310 Rwanda 8 5.4 9.9 190 Burundi 7 2.0 0.0 90 Eritrea 4 2.7 1.6 190 Africa 850 2.4 3.7 636
- Riparian State Cereal Production, Drought Years, and Power Statistics: Cereal Cereal Drought Electric Production Production Years Power Thousand Average 1980 - Consumption Metric Tons Annual 2004 Per Capita 2003 % growth KWH 1995-mr 1995-mr Egypt 19,800 3.3 0 902 Sudan 6,400 -1.8 10 57 Ethiopia 9,000 4.8 15 22 Uganda 2.300 3.5 6 NA Congo 1,600 0.1 0 45 Kenya 2,800 -1.9 10 121 Tanzania 4,000 1.0 9 58 Rwanda 300 10.2 6 NA Burundi 300 1.0 6 NA Eritrea 100 -3.4 8 NA Africa 129,500 0.8 NA
- Legal Situation:
- Historically, Egypt and Sudan determined Nile water allocations.
- 1929 agreement between Egypt and UK gave Egypt 48 billion
- cubic meters annually and Sudan 4 billion cubic meters.
- 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan allocated 55.5 billion
- cubic meters (three quarters) to Egypt and 18.5 billion cubic
- meters (one-quarter) to Sudan.
- Agreement assumed 10 billion cubic meters would evaporate
- from Lake Nasser.
- Treaties resulted in virtual Egyptian and Sudanese monopoly
- of Nile water.
- No other riparian signed 1929 and 1959 agreements.
- Inherent incompatibility between equitable share arguments of
- upstream riparians and historic needs, established rights, and no significant harm arguments of downstream countries.
- Irrigated Agriculture in Basin:
- Irrigation dominates agriculture in climatically dry
- Egypt and northern Sudan.
- Egypt has begun Northern Sinai irrigation project that
- includes Salaam Canal under Suez Canal and eventually
- will use additional 4.4 billion cubic meters of water.
- When completed in 2017, New Valley Project will divert
- another 5 billion cubic meters of water annually.
- Sudan now irrigates only about 1 percent of arable land.
- Ethiopia has about half million acres under irrigation.
- Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania have plans to develop
- about 1 million acres.
- Huge new irrigation projects in Egypt and Sudan pose
- threat to upstream riparians
- Hydropower in Basin:
- Numerous dams for hydro-power in
- basin;best known is Aswan dam in
- Sudan is moving ahead with new
- dams at 3 rd and 4 th cataracts of Nile.
- Ethiopia constructing new dam on
- Tekeze River.
- Ethiopia plans to double hydroelectric
- Uganda constructing another dam
- near Lake Victoria.
- Dams only for hydropower are not
- serious threat to downstream use of water.
- Jonglei Canal:
- Controversial canal known as Jonglei in southern Sudan to move substantial amount of White Nile water around worlds largest freshwater swampSudd.
- 224-mile long Jonglei Canal would make available almost 5 billion cubic meters of water, divided about equally between Sudan and Egypt.
- Excavation of Jonglei reached mile 166 in 1984 when the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) attacked project and stopped it.
- Will not be possible to restart project without consent of southern Sudanese.
- How To Avoid War:
- Riparian countries have taken important steps to minimize conflict.
- Created several organizations to resolve problems
- Most important is Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), regional
- partnership of riparians.
- World Bank coordinates International Consortium for
- Cooperation on the Nile (ICCON), which promotes
- Financing for cooperative water resource development.
- Some programs can benefit most riparians by improving
- water quality, encouraging cultivation of crops that require
- less water, reuse of drainage water, and improving
- environment in watershed areas.
- Countries with significant hydroelectric power potential could sell power to Sudan and Egypt.
- Upstream dams can trap sediment.
- Evaporation at Lake Nasser is about 12 percent.
- It is only about 3 percent in Ethiopian highlands; water for Sudan and Egypt can be stored more effectively in Ethiopia.
- These measures will reduce potential for conflict.
- Nile basin is huge opportunity for international community to engage in conflict prevention.
- Role for USG:
- Elevate Nile basin cooperation to major US foreign
- policy priority in region.
- Make cooperative solutions to use of Nile water
- routine part of diplomatic dialogue.
- Support financially Nile Basin Initiative, Nile Basin
- Trust Fund, and ICCON.
- Offer to finance technical assistance to develop
- regional climatic models, short and long-term
- hydrometeorological forecasting, and modeling of
- environmental conditions.
- Encourage NBI to draw on US technical expertise in
- areas such as remote sensing and GIS.
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