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Row over the construction of a dam on Nile river Egypt vs. Ethiopia
Environment Protection

Row over the construction of a dam on Nile river: Egypt vs. Ethiopia

Row over the construction of a dam on Nile river: Egypt vs. Ethiopia

Rahman Mahfuz, An Environmentalist, Environmental and Financial Topic writer, Engineer, and a social worker and Organizer

চিত্র ক্যাপশন নীল নদ মিশরের রক্ত প্রবাহ

Egypt is called the gift of the river Nile, or the Nile is seen as the lifeblood of Egypt – without the water of the Nile, the country’s survival would be impossible.

The Nile is the largest river on the African continent, flowing over 11 countries in East-North Africa facing towards the North and falling into the Mediterranean Sea. It is also the longest disputed river in the world.

Its length is about 6,650 km. And the countries it flows through are Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, North Sudan, and Egypt. The Nile is the only source of water in Sudan and Egypt.

The Nile has two tributaries – the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The White Nile is the main river in the Nile. The Blue Nile is the source of 80% of the water.

White Nile is relatively long and originates from the Great Lake’s region of Central Africa; The farthest source has not yet been determined, but it will be in Rwanda or Burundi.

It then flows to the North through Tanzania, joins Lake Victoria’s flow, and enters North Sudan via Uganda and South Sudan.

The Blue Nile originates from Lake Tana in Ethiopia and flows through northwest direction, becomes the main Nile merging with the White Nile at Khartoum, the capital of North Sudan, and has fallen into the Mediterranean Sea through the middle of the desert of Sudan, over Egypt.

Since ancient times Egyptian civilization and Sudan; Completely dependent on the Nile River. Most of the populous cities in Egypt, all the ancient and historical sites are located on the banks of the Nile River.

Since 2011, Ethiopia has begun constructing a dam on the Blue River to build a hydroelectric plant. The dam is named “Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GARD)”.

It is also called “Millennium Dam” or “Hides Dam”. The dam is located 15 km from the North Sudan border. Ethiopia’s goal is to generate hydropower and export it to neighboring countries after domestic fulfilments.

The dam will generate 6.45 gigabytes of electricity; It will be the largest hydropower plant on the African continent and the 7th largest in the world.

The reservoir constructed in front of the dam for hydropower will hold 74 billion cubic meters (BCM) of water and take 5 to 15 years to complete.



Egypt has opposed the dam since it was planned. It is expected that the reopening of the hydroelectric power plant after the construction of the dam will significantly reduce the flow of water across the Nile to Sudan and Egypt.

There will be a catastrophe in the economic and social sectors, including the agricultural production of the two countries. Egypt will face great difficulties in all spheres of life, especially intrusion of saline waters of the sea.

So, the North African country has long opposed the construction of dams upstream of the Nile and has considered the Ethiopian project a threat to its existence.

Construction of the dam has recently been completed, and the reservoir has started filling up with water. When it began to rain this season in Ethiopia, the Ethiopians got up to celebrate, and then Egypt erupted in anger, rage, and frustration among them.

চিত্রে: জুন, ২০২০ বাঁধের সম্মূখের জলাধার শুষ্ক দেখা যায় ( স্যাটেলাইট দৃশ্য)
Image: At June 2020, the lake in front of the dam is looking dry ( satellite Image)
চিত্রে জুলাই ২০২০ এর প্রথম দিকে বাঁধের সম্মূখের জলাধার পূর্ণ হতে দেখা যাচ্ছে ( স্যাটেলাইট দৃশ্য)
Image: At July 2020, the lake in front of the lake is showing full of Water ( Satellite Image)

Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia have been discussing on the dam’s construction for over a decade, and it has already been completed.

An agreement called “Spirit of Co-operation” was signed between the three countries in 2015, but Egypt feels that spirit is missing in Ethiopia’s water-filled program.

Image: US President's Office, America tried to sign an agreement between Egypt and Ethiopia but failed.
Image: US President’s Office, America tried to sign an agreement between Egypt and Ethiopia but failed.

Egypt has lobbied for it at the highest international level in the last year. They have lobbied in the United States and the United Nations for political help, but to no avail. Egypt seems to have lost that diplomatic battle.

It has failed to compel Ethiopia to comply with the 1997 UN Watercourses Convention, which requires upstream countries to consult with the downstream countries before undertaking any project on international rivers.

At the moment, it is difficult to imagine what Egypt could do without accepting it, even though it would be difficult for them to deal with the potential damage. But Egypt has not yet considered a military alternative.

The Egyptian leadership has repeatedly said it is committed to resolving it through negotiations. However, the suspension of a trial is like “all options will be on the table” – a phrase that often provokes potential conflict.

Egypt has repeatedly described the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GARD) project as a matter of life and death in Egypt. This is especially true if the dam reduces the amount of water in the Nile that reaches Egypt.

Egypt is a Water Poverty Country. Egypt also insists that it will recognize the right to 55 billion cubic meters of water for its country in any future trilateral agreement.

The Blue Nile carries an average of 49 billion cubic meters of water a year, and the dam will supply a certain amount of water – Ethiopia has refused to make such a promise to Egypt. Ethiopia believes the claims should be recognized as inheritance through a treaty.

The Egyptian government responded by saying it had betrayed powerlessness rather than solving the problem.

It is not that much as the country wants more water sharing. It is no exaggeration to describe the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GARD) as a threat to Egypt’s existence. Egypt is an arid country with very little water.

In the words of the World Bank, the country is considered to be the only country with water poverty in which its citizens have less than 1000 cubic meters of water per person per year. In Egypt, the official figure is only 550 cubic meters per person.

The above picture shows that 90% of Egypt's population lives in the narrow Nile Valley, with only 6% living in the rest of the country. Originally Egypt is surrounded by vast deserts on both sides of the Nile.
The above picture shows that 90% of Egypt’s population lives in the narrow Nile Valley, with only 6% living in the rest of the country. Originally Egypt is surrounded by vast deserts on both sides of the Nile.

Ethiopia has defeated Egypt cunningly, The Nile River is the primary source of water for the Egyptians, providing water for their drinking and farming. The current 55 billion cubic meters of water flowing into the Nile are far less than they need to be.

It explains that while Egypt has so far exercised verbal restraint at the official level, the media and commentators have not backed down.

According to Egypt, Ethiopia has established a system of complete control over the river, keeping the Egyptians in the dark by continuing year-on-year negotiations.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew celebrates his first year after the lake in front of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GARD). It was filled with water; a winner tweeted –

saying, “the river has turned into a lake… the blue river is ours” – which inflates our emotions. This confirmed what the Egyptians had long feared, and in response, some Egyptians made various threats.

In an attempt to reassure his followers, Imad-Al-Din Hussein, an Egyptian columnist, wrote in the daily Sharq that Ethiopia had secured their country by defeating cunningly, but the game was not over.

He summed up the frustration and the imbalance of what many Egyptians feel: “Ethiopians refuse to believe that without the Nile we would die.

They have many rivers and receive about 950 billion cubic meters of rainwater annually. We get a small amount of 55 billion cubic meters, half of our real needs, half of what their livestock consumes every year.”
Diplomatic debate

Egypt has launched several water management projects, including recycling wastewater into agriculture, desalination of brackish water, and the use of land-based irrigation systems with ambitious water-saving water instead of traditional irrigation.

But Egypt’s water poverty argument is probably the most reliable card in the diplomatic battle if it can be used to increase international support.

Without brief advertisements in several languages, the Egyptian administration has failed to campaign for global support.

With the support of sub-Saharan Africa and even the United States, Ethiopians seem to have made good progress in their favor.

The current chairperson of the African Union is South African President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa. Many Egyptians believe that South Africa is biased towards Ethiopia, which is not suitable for negotiations in the African Union.

If it fails to achieve satisfactory results through the African Union and the United States, Egypt believes it can return the water dispute with Ethiopia to the UN Security Council.

However, it is not yet sure of the support of all five permanent members of the UN. A recent report suggests that both China and Russia would oppose such a move, as they do not want to set such a precedent because they are involved in such river disputes with neighboring countries downstream.

Failure to bridge the gap between Egypt and Ethiopia could lead to disaster for both. Drought and potentially widespread displacement in Egypt could have far-reaching consequences for North Africa and Europe.

An armed conflict between the two largest countries in Africa could create a frightening environment not only for Africans but for the whole world.

Reference: BBC and WIKIPEDIA & GreenPage

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