Crisis and Conflict Management studies taught us this fundamental rule: “Deal with the problem, any problem, promptly in a swift, firm and pragmatic way; if not it will take its time to grow bigger and will pressingly return slapping your face and force you to seek solutions.. Immediate solutions.. It will overpower you to concede for a chain of unfavourable compromises”.
And that’s my friends exactly the essence of Ethiopia’s Nahda Dam project and consequently Egypt’s Water Crisis, that this administration is obviously unprepared to deal with; not to mention its ability to find adequate solutions to solve it.
But as any other aspect of Egypt’s approximation in doing things, managing water resources cannot be the exception.. Our rulers have never confronted any issue by going to its root causes and handle it from there.. Observe that I’m not even talking about planning for possible future eventualities, because forecasting was never taken for serious; it was always considered and used as just an optimising political tool.
From the 1956 Suez Crisis till the January 2011 revolution.. Everything was, and still is, handled approximately.. We just got used to ‘Almost’ do things.. We had an almost constitution and almost did a new one.. An almost Democracy.. An almost Justice.. An almost Freedom.. An almost education.. An almost health care programmes.. An almost equal civil and human rights.. An almost women liberties.. An almost economy.. An almost administration. Even the 1952 coup itself was another ‘almost’ achievement.
The mere fact that our consecutive military and civil administrations have never dealt with the Nile* water issue as a Strategic National Security Top Priority shows how shallow were, and still are, their political capabilities, and how short sighted is their vision.. That’s why we have always been facing serious problems that we were never prepared to properly handle.. They just don’t see it coming.. They prefer to “let it be for now, who comes after me should deal with it.. I have more urgent matters to consider”.
The indisputable facts related to this particular case could be synthesised in the following points:
a) We know that the Nile, located in northeast Africa and the longest river in the world, supplies water to Egypt and Sudan; and that it is formed from two rivers: the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Egypt is dependent on the Blue Nile. And where the Blue Nile starts? It starts in Ethiopia! Got the picture now? Simple yes?
b) We also know that during the colonial period, Britain effectively controlled the Nile through its military presence in Africa. Since Sudanese independence, Sudan has renegotiated with Egypt over the use of the Nile waters. The 1959 agreement between Sudan and Egypt allocated the entire average annual flow of the Nile to be shared among the Sudan and Egypt at 18.5 and 55.5 billion cubic meters respectively, but ignored the rights to water of the remaining eight Nile countries. Ethiopia contributes 80% of the total Nile flow, but by the 1959 agreement is entitled to none of its resources. However, the agreement between Egypt and Sudan is not binding on Ethiopia as it was never a party to it. Since the early 1990s, Ethiopia has successfully countered Egyptian and Sudanese resistance to water development projects in Ethiopia to increase irrigation and hydroelectric potential. Since May 2010, Ethiopia and the other upper riparian states have launched the “Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement”** in a bid to ensure an equitable utilization between all the riparian states of the Nile.
c) And we definitely know that Egypt is facing a water crisis as its population increases. In the 1960s, the average water share per person was 2,800 cubic meters. Now, the figure has dropped to 600 cubic meters, much below the poverty line, which is 1,000 cubic meters per person! Notwithstanding these figures go back to 2001yet still no one raised the alarm. On the contrary, we kept ignoring the rights of other water sharing states, leaning on an old out of date and concept Colonial Treaties.
Of course you’d agree that while Egypt is highly dependent on the Nile, there are factors that may lead to the necessity of conflict over the distribution of the Nile water supply. For example:
· Egypt has such an agriculturally-dependent economy.
· Egypt is already dependent on virtual water imports, a strategy which may lead that the country would attempt water conflicts.
· Ethiopia's tributaries supply about 86 percent of the waters of the Nile.
· Egypt has historically threatened war on Ethiopia and Tanzania over the Nile river.
· Egypt armed Somali separatist rebels in Ethiopia during and since the Somalia invasion of Ethiopia in the 1970s.
· Over the years, the involved states have put agreements and treaties into place so that conflict can be controlled.
Some scholars and politicians argue that there are more important foreign policy concerns than water, which relate to ideological, economic and strategic relations with neighbouring states (and with outside powers), and access to 'goods' such as foreign aid and investments, oil revenues and remittances, illegal economies and military hardware make water conflict a marginal concern.
But the greatest question facing the Nile riparian states remains:
“Will the agreement, any agreement, help them overcome the unjust and unequal distribution of Nile water resources?”.
Pass On The Word.
* It is the world's longest river flowing 6,700 kilometers through ten countries in northeastern Africa: Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt.**is a partnership among the Nile Riparian states that “seeks to develop the river in a cooperative manner, share substantial socioeconomic benefits, and promote regional peace and security”. It was formally launched in February 1999 by the water ministers of 9 countries that share the river: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo with Eritrea as observer.