Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt has Other Problems Looming...

It's hard not to be proud of the Egyptian people for their perserverence toward freedom. But as is too often the case, other also fundamental issues are yet to be faced.

And one big one will be a new apportionment of the Nile River. It all began when a 1929 treaty regarding the River was brokered by the country’s former colonial power, Britain. It granted Egypt a veto over any water project that may alter the flow of the Nile – by any country. A 1959 pact between Egypt and Sudan later claimed 90 percent of the Nile’s flow for themselves – while the remaining eight countries in the basin were not invited or involved. They are now, and they’re wanting their fair share of the Nile River. (click on map to enlarge)

Last year Congo and Burundi spearheaded the drafting of a Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA) addressing the most contentious issues of the Nile River – equitably allocating the sustainable annual river yield; fairly considering and approving new water and energy projects on the river by all countries; and the elimination of Egypt’s claimed veto authority. The accord has already been signed by Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, and is about to be signed by Congo and Burundi. Only upstream Eritrea has not been involved in the CFA to date.

Nearly all of Egypt’s water supplies come from the Nile, so the accord has serious implications for the country and its future water projects. They have opposed the CFA process and have threatened to withdraw from the Nile Basin Initiative (a World Bank funded program to resolve disputes over the river’s water) if the seven upstream states sign the accord.

The Nile River’s average discharge is about 300 million cubic meters per day - with Ethiopia being the source of about 85 percent of this water. The CFA countries argue that Egypt must share, and, must allow the other countries to develop water projects fairly. Solutions offered within the CFA involve relocation of the Aswan Dam, more efficiency of Egypt’s current water use and elimination of a large irrigation project for Egypt’s Tushka Desert – all saving enough water to provide the rest of the basin countries access to water they need without reducing what Egypt and Sudan are currently using.  I wish the Egyptian people also the strength and foresight to tackle their water problems as well.

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