You are on page 1of 14

AVOIDING A WATER WAR IN THE NILE BASIN

DAVID H. SHINN, Ph.D.

ADJUNCT PROFESSOR
ELLIOTT SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

Why the Concern? •Water scarcity is single biggest threat to global food security.

•There is little water left when Nile reaches Mediterranean.
•Conflict most likely when downstream riparian is highly dependent on river water and is strong in comparison to upstream riparians. •Egypt has threatened war if Ethiopia tries to block the Nile flow. •Ethiopia responded no country can prevent it from using Nile water. •Egypt says it will not give up its share of Nile water. •Most upstream countries are seeking to use more water before it reaches Egypt. •Water is limited; riparian needs are growing; potential for conflict is real.

Basic Basin Facts:

•Nile is world’s longest river— 4,145 miles.
•Nile basin is little larger than India. •Start of annual flood in Egypt is fairly predictable.

•But volume of annual flood varies enormously and is totally unpredictable.

•Average annual flow of Nile at Aswan from 1870 to 1988 was 88 billion cubic meters.

•Late 1970s through 1987 were unusually low flow years.
•Annual flow of Nile measured at Aswan has diminished significantly since 1900s. •Nile produces only 14 percent of Mississippi’s annual discharge. •About 200 million people live in Nile Basin. •Population in basin predicted to double between 1995 and 2025. •Agriculture biggest water consumer.

Riparian Countries: •Ten riparian countries; most important Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda.

•Others are Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Eritrea.
•95 percent of Egyptians live in Nile Valley and depend on river for fresh water. •Nile water is life or death issue for Egypt. •Nile is also crucial for Sudan. •86 percent of water reaching Aswan comes from Ethiopia. •14 percent arrives via White Nile from Uganda and southern riparian states.

Riparian State Basic Statistics: Pop. Pop. Millions Growth 2003 Rate 1995-mr capita

Average Annual % growth GDP 1995-mr

Gross National Income Per $ 2003 1390 460 90 250 100 400 310 190 90 190 636

Egypt Sudan Ethiopia Uganda Congo Kenya Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Eritrea Africa

68 34 69 25 53 32 36 8 7 4 850

1.9 2.3 2.5 2.8 2.2 2.3 2.5 5.4 2.0 2.7 2.4

4.9 6.2 4.5 6.3 -2.4 1.7 4.8 9.9 0.0 1.6 3.7

Riparian State Cereal Production, Drought Years, and Power Statistics: Cereal Cereal Drought Electric Production Production Years Power Thousand Average 1980 Consumption Metric Tons Annual 2004 Per Capita 2003 % growth KWH 1995-mr 1995-mr Egypt 19,800 Sudan 6,400 Ethiopia 9,000 Uganda 2.300 Congo 1,600 Kenya 2,800 Tanzania 4,000 Rwanda 300 Burundi 300 Eritrea 100 3.3 -1.8 4.8 3.5 0.1 -1.9 1.0 10.2 1.0 -3.4 0 10 15 6 0 10 9 6 6 8 902 57 22 NA 45 121 58 NA NA NA

Africa 129,500

0.8

NA

Legal Situation: •Historically, Egypt and Sudan determined Nile water allocations. •1929 agreement between Egypt and UK gave Egypt 48 billion cubic meters annually and Sudan 4 billion cubic meters. •1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan allocated 55.5 billion cubic meters (three quarters) to Egypt and 18.5 billion cubic meters (one-quarter) to Sudan. •Agreement assumed 10 billion cubic meters would evaporate from Lake Nasser. •Treaties resulted in virtual Egyptian and Sudanese monopoly of Nile water. •No other riparian signed 1929 and 1959 agreements. •Inherent incompatibility between “equitable share” arguments of upstream riparians and “historic needs, established rights, and no significant harm” arguments of downstream countries.

Irrigated Agriculture in Basin: •Irrigation dominates agriculture in climatically dry Egypt and northern Sudan. •Egypt has begun Northern Sinai irrigation project that includes Salaam Canal under Suez Canal and eventually will use additional 4.4 billion cubic meters of water. •When completed in 2017, New Valley Project will divert another 5 billion cubic meters of water annually. •Sudan now irrigates only about 1 percent of arable land. •Ethiopia has about half million acres under irrigation. •Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania have plans to develop about 1 million acres. •Huge new irrigation projects in Egypt and Sudan pose threat to upstream riparians

Hydropower in Basin: •Numerous dams for hydro-power in basin;best known is Aswan dam in Egypt. •Sudan is moving ahead with new dams at 3rd and 4th cataracts of Nile. •Ethiopia constructing new dam on Tekeze River. •Ethiopia plans to double hydroelectric production. •Uganda constructing another dam near Lake Victoria. •Dams only for hydropower are not serious threat to downstream use of water.

I

I. The Nubian Nile II. The Nile Basin south of Khartoum III. Ethiopia and the Blue Nile

II

III

Jonglei Canal: •Controversial canal known as Jonglei in southern Sudan to move substantial amount of White Nile water around world’s largest freshwater swamp—Sudd. •224-mile long Jonglei Canal would make available almost 5 billion cubic meters of water, divided about equally between Sudan and Egypt. •Excavation of Jonglei reached mile 166 in 1984 when the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) attacked project and stopped it. •Will not be possible to restart project without consent of southern Sudanese.

How To Avoid War: •Riparian countries have taken important steps to minimize conflict. •Created several organizations to resolve problems cooperatively. •Most important is Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), regional partnership of riparians. •World Bank coordinates International Consortium for Cooperation on the Nile (ICCON), which promotes Financing for cooperative water resource development. •Some programs can benefit most riparians by improving water quality, encouraging cultivation of crops that require less water, reuse of drainage water, and improving environment in watershed areas.

•Countries with significant hydroelectric power potential could sell power to Sudan and Egypt.

•Upstream dams can trap sediment.
•Evaporation at Lake Nasser is about 12 percent.

•It is only about 3 percent in Ethiopian highlands; water for Sudan and Egypt can be stored more effectively in Ethiopia.
•These measures will reduce potential for conflict. •Nile basin is huge opportunity for international community to engage in conflict prevention.

Role for USG: •Elevate Nile basin cooperation to major US foreign policy priority in region. •Make cooperative solutions to use of Nile water routine part of diplomatic dialogue.

•Support financially Nile Basin Initiative, Nile Basin Trust Fund, and ICCON.
•Offer to finance technical assistance to develop regional climatic models, short and long-term hydrometeorological forecasting, and modeling of environmental conditions. •Encourage NBI to draw on US technical expertise in areas such as remote sensing and GIS.