Thursday, January 04, 2007

African Countries in the Nile River Basin Are Close to Reaching Agreement on Pact

Two articles on Nile Basin agrement. Note the
first one mentions a plan to drain Aswan dam and
rebuild dam in Ethiopia highlands!

Africa close to reaching Nile pact

December 30, 2006

After three years of closed-door talks, nine
nations are quietly edging toward a deal to
jointly oversee the waters of the Nile, an
agreement that has eluded lands along the great
river since the days of the pharaohs.

An expected meeting of water ministers next month
may produce a preliminary accord, officials say.

"I hope we'll reach a very good result, but I
cannot guarantee it," Egyptian negotiator Abdel
Fattah Metawie said in Cairo, the likely site for
the session.

Such a pact would right a colonial era wrong that
reserved the world's longest river for irrigation
in Egypt and Sudan, effectively denying its
waters to Uganda and other upriver countries.

Nature may be pushing political leaders toward
compromise, said Gordon Mumbo of the Nile Basin
Initiative, an umbrella office in Uganda for
joint activities among the riverine nations.

Drought and heat have lowered the level of nearby
Lake Victoria, the vast lake that spills an
outlet stream northward to start the Nile's
nearly 6,500 kilometre meander - from this region
of jungle and crocodiles to the camel-crossed
deserts of Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea.

"One of the greatest realisations is that the
waters of the Nile of Lake Victoria are finite.
They can be depleted," said Mumbo, a regional
project manager. "The issue is how can people
come together and best manage them today and

The long-term vision sees irrigated crops from
central Africa feeding Egypt, for example, and
Ethiopian dams supplying hydroelectric power
across the region.

Even millennia back, Egypt's pharaonic empire
tried to push its rule south to ensure no-one
would block their Nile lifeline.

The dispute today, when almost all Egypt's water
comes from the river, is rooted in a 1929 treaty
that - with a 1959 side deal - guarantees 89 per
cent of the river flow for Egypt and Sudan, and
forbids people upriver to build, without Egyptian
approval, irrigation or other projects that might
significantly reduce water volume. Egypt
maintains river inspectors in Uganda even today.

That original treaty was negotiated between Egypt
and Britain, colonial ruler of Kenya, Uganda and
Tanzania, now independent nations at the
headwaters of the river's White Nile branch.
London wanted water guaranteed for British cotton
plantations in Egypt.

"They were taking care of people who knew what
they wanted. We were not consulted," said
Uganda's Water Minister Maria Mutagamba. "We are
now independent. We can sit at the table and

The 1929 treaty didn't cover sovereign Ethiopia,
source of the Blue Nile, which merges with the
White Nile in Sudan. But Ethiopia's deep poverty,
and Egyptian diplomatic pressure and military
threats, kept it from diverting the waters.

In addition, the World Bank refrains from
financing projects that might harm downriver
countries without their approval.

"For us it was a question of financial capacity,"
Ethiopian negotiator Teferra Beyene said by
telephone from Addis Ababa. "We hope this
agreement may remove some of these constraints."

The agreement among Nile nations - also including
Rwanda, Burundi and Congo, all of which contain
remote river sources - won't assign shares of
river water, but will formalise the principle of
equal voices and establish a nine-nation
commission to tackle detailed issues later.

The need for consensus - giving Egypt a veto -
will protect what Metawie called his country's
existing rights to 55.5 billion cubic metres of
water per year. But there can be plenty of water
to go around, he said, since so much today is
lost to waste and poor rain catchment upriver.

"The problem is more of management than of
resources," he said.

Negotiators have focused on developing "win-win"
projects benefiting multiple nations - via
Egyptian technical help, trade deals and other
regional approaches.

"Instead of the Egyptians growing oranges where
they have to irrigate every field," Uganda's
Mutagamba said, "they can grow oranges here,"
where rainfall makes irrigation less vital.

Ethiopian and Egyptian engineers point to another
possibility: Replacing Egypt's Lake Nasser, a
desert reservoir that loses huge amounts of water
to evaporation, with a less wasteful reservoir in
Ethiopia's cooler highlands. In an even grander
vision, planners see an electrical grid sending
Ethiopian hydropower everywhere.

Even with a framework agreement, however, the way
ahead isn't clear. "The feasibility studies have
been done, but the finances aren't there," said
the Nile Basin Initiative's Mumbo.

An observer of Nile diplomacy, Cairo political
scientist Sharif Elmusa, said something else is
missing, too.

"There isn't that kind of trust yet between Egypt
and Ethiopia - to say, `OK, build the dam for
electricity,' when you can't guarantee that
Ethiopia won't use it for other purposes," he

Trust may soon face new strains on the Nile, as
water demand rises and water volume falls.

United Nations experts say populations in the
river basin may double by mid-century. The UN's
climatologists, meanwhile, say computer scenarios
show global warming decreasing water flows in the
Nile by up to 40 per cent.


Nile states to dump colonial water pacts

2006-12-12 09:04:50
By Emmanuel Chacha, Mwanza

Nile Basin countries are set to sign a new
agreement on Nile waters utilization.

The pact will end the outdated two agreements
signed during the colonial era: the 1929 Nile
Water Agreement and the 1959 Agreement for the
Full Utilization of the Nile, that gave Egypt and
Sudan extensive rights over the river's use.

The latter also gave Egypt a de facto right to
veto any project using Nile water in other
riparian states, despite the fact that it
portioned out all of the Nile's water.

The Minister for Water, Dr. Shukuru Kawambwa,
told The Guardian in an exclusive interview that
relevant ministers from ten Nile Basin countries
would meet in Cairo mid next January to sign the
Nile Basin Cooperation Framework as independent

Under the framework, all Nile basin countriesthe
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, Egypt,
Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya
and Tanzania will recognize the right of each
country to use the Nile River and Lake Victoria
waters in a sustainable way, he said.

He added: "We have been discussing the matter since

Now we all have a common vision. So we want to
sign an agreement on equitable share of river and
lake waters sustainably and effectively towards
development, environmental conservation.

This is due to the fact that the water issue may cause
war among stakeholders.

We hope this will be the last meeting to end the decades-old treaties".

He maintained that soon after independence,
Tanzania made it clear that it did not recognize
all signed colonial agreements on its behalf,
including the 1929 Nile Water Agreement.

The minister said that the burning issue at the
moment was the amount of water of each country
would have the right to use and that currently;
experts from riparian states were working on the
issue which would be tabled in the January

Within the Cooperation Framework, plans were
designed to harness the basin's waters for
irrigation, and also establishment of an energy
policy to provide power for all countries in the
region. Some projects are nearing their
implementation stage.

"We need to utilise the existing opportunities to
have cooperation where all actors will have a
win-win gain towards development," he said.

According to the World Bank, the Nile River Basin
is home to an estimated 160 million people, while
almost 300 million live in ten countries that
share the Nile waters.

The WB adds that within the next 25 years, the
Basin population is expected to double, leading
to increased demand for water generated by growth
in industry and agriculture.

SOURCE: Guardian
Lori Pottinger, Director, Africa Program,
and Editor, World Rivers Review
International Rivers Network <'})))>><
1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, California 94703, USA
Tel. (510) 848 1155 Fax (510) 848 1008

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