Egyptian water supply threatened by Ethiopian dam

Simple Facts the world must know about Egyptians and the Nile:

1. When you visit Egypt, you can enjoy a cruise in the Nile that crosses Egypt from the border with Sudan in the south to the Mediterranean Sea in the north. This enjoyable river is the main source of life for the Egyptians over the history. It enabled the ancient Egyptians to build one of the greatest civilizations on earth and it is still the main source of water for the Egyptians. To cut it short “without the river, there is no Egypt”. Do you know that Egyptians today suffer from water poverty? The current share of water in Egypt is 533 m3 per person per year and the international water poverty line is 1000 m3 per capita per year.

2. Egypt was suffering in the flood season over the history and lacking irrigation water the rest of the year. In the 60s, the Egyptians decided to construct the high Aswan dam to manage the water and maximize the benefits of each drop of water. It is important to understand that Egypt is the last downstream country on the Nile. This means that building the dam did not affect the other Nile basin countries. The dam enabled effectively managing the river water instead of flowing to the Mediterranean Sea.
One simple fact to feel the importance of the dam for the life of the Egyptians: When the dam was built in the 60s, the population in Egypt was 27 million and the Egyptian water share was 55.5 billion m3 per year. Today, the Egyptian population is 104 million and the annual water share is still the same (55.5 billion m3). Professional Egyptian management of this limited amount and recycling each drop of water more than once are the keywords for surviving until today.

3. It is important to know that this 55.5 billion m3 is less than 3% of the amount of rainfall drops on the Nile basin countries. This means that the basin has enough water for all the countries and Egypt is not taking the share of any of them. In 2011 while Egypt was busy with its revolution of January, 25th, Ethiopia decided to start building the biggest dam in Africa with the justification of generating Energy without notifying Egypt. Important also to know that the international law for shared rivers commits Ethiopia to notify other riparian states in such a case and not to cause them any harmful impact. This dam is expected to drastically affect the Egyptian water share which is currently far below the actual Egyptian demand.

4. Egypt has been very patient in dealing with this file over the past 7 years. Egyptian officials have showed good intention and signed in March 2015 an agreement with Ethiopia and Sudan that respects their rights in the development but also respects the right of the Egyptians in the life. Negotiations after negotiations, meetings after meetings and committees after committees …. All of this is just to agree on the minimum, which is assessing the impact of the dam on Egypt. The funny thing is that constructing the dam is going very fast and never stopped a single day. On the other hand, the negotiations are going very slow. Now about two third of the dam is completed and it is planned to start its operation in 2018. We never heard in the history about a dam that is about to be completed without economic, social and environmental impact assessment. But now we heard about GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam).

Dr. Hani Sewilam
Dr. Hani Sewilam - stellvertretender Leiter des UNESCO Lehrstuhls für Hydrologischen Wandel und Wasserressourcen-Management (HydroChange) an der RWTH Aachen University

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