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  • Let's talk about the Nile River

  • and why Egypt and Ethiopia have been fighting over it.

  • The problem is this dam being built in Ethiopia.

  • Once it's finished it'll be the most powerful hydroelectric dam in Africa.

  • But Egypt says its supply of water is in danger of drying up.

  • After years of talks they're now saying they're close

  • to signing a deal on how to share the water.

  • But there are lots of details that need to be worked out.

  • So why has it been so hard to end the battle for the Nile?

  • Its official name is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

  • And it's huge.

  • When they're done building it

  • the reservoir will be bigger than Greater London

  • and cover almost 1,700 sq km.

  • It's pretty much the largest project

  • the government has ever embarked upon.

  • The original cost of it was around $5 billion.

  • It will probably be significantly more than that.

  • But before we get into the dispute about the dam itself

  • it helps to understand the Nile basin and what's at stake.

  • Eleven African countries are in it and 280 million people live there.

  • The Nile is also, fun fact

  • the only major river that runs south to north.

  • One of the river's tributaries, the Blue Nile

  • starts off in Lake Tana in Ethiopia

  • and converges the White Nile in Sudan's capital Khartoum.

  • From there the Nile flows downstream to Egypt.

  • There are several dams along the way, including Egypt's Aswan dam.

  • But Ethiopia is building its power plant upstream

  • right here on the border with Sudan.

  • Now as the name Renaissance suggests

  • this dam is supposed to revive Ethiopia's economy.

  • It'll provide electricity to millions of Ethiopians.

  • And that's big because right now more than two-thirds of the population

  • aren't connected to the grid. That's about 75 million people.

  • Over several years it will produce 6,000 megawatts.

  • Ethiopia's current generating capacity is only 4,000 megawatts.

  • So this dam is also going to generate

  • more power for Ethiopia than it needs

  • meaning it can export electricity.  

  • That's all very good news for Ethiopia.

  • But if you ask Egypt this dam will be catastrophic.

  • The Nile has been at the centre of Egyptian life for millenia.

  • An entire ancient civilisation was built around it

  • and relied on the river for transport and irrigation.

  • And that's still the case today.

  • The country relies on the Nile for almost all of its water.

  • It's a rain-starved, largely desert country.

  • So obviously any potential interruptions to the flow of the Nile

  • is justifiably of huge concern for Egypt.

  • Egypt controls most of the flow of the River Nile

  • into its country, at least for now.

  • Egypt's biggest worry is how quickly Ethiopia will fill the reservoir.

  • And our colleagues at Al Jazeera Labs have studied a few scenarios.

  • Say Ethiopia agrees to fill the reservoir over the next 10 years.

  • AJ Labs says that would cut Egypt's water supply

  • by 14% and destroy 18% of its farmland.

  • If Ethiopia fills the dam more quickly, say over seven years

  • one-third of Egypt's farmland would be lost.

  • And a five-year window would destroy half of that land.

  • According to their simulations this is how the Egyptian delta

  • would change over those 10 years.

  • So Ethiopia's best-case scenario

  • filling the dam as soon as possible

  • is Egypt's worst nightmare.

  • It's no wonder these negotiations have been tough.

  • It was during the Arab Spring in 2011

  • while Egypt had a revolution on its hands

  • that Ethiopia started building the dam.

  • Ever since then Egyptian leaders have tried to stop the project

  • and military conflict never seemed far.

  • Last year, Ethiopia accused Egypt of sending rebels to neighbouring Eritrea

  • to sabotage the dam, prompting another Nile-sharing country

  • Sudan, to send its troops to its border.”

  • In 2018 the operating manager of the Ethiopian dam

  • Simegnew Bekele, was found dead.

  • Bekele's sudden death drew crowds and raised suspicions.”

  • It was reported he'd been shot in broad daylight which led to protests.

  • But in the end the authorities said Bekele took his own life.

  • In 2019 Ethiopia's prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, even said:

  • "...no force could stop Ethiopia from building a dam.

  • If there is a need to go to war we could get millions readied.

  • If some could fire a missile, others could use bombs.”

  • This is ultimately an age-old debate about who owns the Nile.

  • In 1929 Egypt signed a treaty with Britain, a colonial power in Africa

  • at the time, that basically guarantees its access to the Nile and gave

  • Egypt a veto over construction projects on the river.

  • But Ethiopia didn't sign that treaty.

  • Then in 1999 all the Nile basin countries, including Egypt and Ethiopia

  • signed an agreement on managing water.

  • But that deal was compromised in 2010

  • when six of those countries decided to draw up another treaty.

  • This time Egypt rejected it because it threatened its historic rights to water.

  • It's Egypt's concern that if it moves into

  • It's Egypt's concern that if it moves into

  • then it will be left short of water resources

  • and also its control over the situation will be massively reduced.

  • And as far as Sudan goes it's sort of caught in the middle.

  • Egypt is Sudan's political ally

  • but the government supports the Renaissance dam

  • because it'll be a source of affordable energy

  • and it will help regulate flooding.

  • The good news is that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan

  • are in talks with one another.

  • The bad news is that they still haven't answered the tough questions.

  • Questions like, when there's a drought

  • will Ethiopia consider Egypt's needs?

  • And when is a drought a drought?

  • Those conversations will only get tougher

  • because more dams are being planned

  • populations are growing and the climate is changing.

  • All of which will make the Nile and the supply of water

  • increasingly worth fighting over.

Let's talk about the Nile River

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What's behind the Egypt-Ethiopia Nile dispute? | Start Here

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    joey joey posted on 2021/10/14
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