A Watery Conflict

One of the oldest civilizations in the world began by the banks of the River Nile. The world’s longest river has led to a tense situation between three African countries - Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

A top shot of the river Nile.

Ninety percent of the former country’s water comes from the Nile. As a country with scarce water, the Nile is a matter of survival for the Egyptians. On the other hand, the $4bn dam that is the bone of contention, shall facilitate Ethiopia’s industrial hopes. Whereas, in case of Sudan the hydroelectric dam shall generate electricity in abundance. Especially, for a country in which sixty-five percent of the population is lacking electricity, in fact, it will provide them with a surplus to sell as well. The surplus will help the neighboring countries and prevent flooding in Sudan too.

Seeing the dire need that both the countries have for the Nile, any conflict about the Nile becomes a matter of national security. Egypt fears that the dam will give Ethiopia the control of the river. The hydroelectric power stations won’t consume water, but the water stored in the dam’s reservoir shall affect the flow downstream. The speed of filling the dam is the concern. Ethiopia wants to do it in six years but Egypt is pushing for a longer period, so that the level of the river does not decrease too much. Another problem is the Aswan dam, which was built the same way as Ethiopia is building this one, which will affect water flow. This led to a three-way talk that spanned over 4 years between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. The discussion was majorly of the operation of the dam and filling of its reservoir but has not been fruitful yet. The conversation hasn’t reached the point where they assess the impact, they are still trying to determine the way to analyze it

This conflict has its roots in treaties of 1929 and then 1959 that gave Egypt and Sudan rights to nearly all of Nile’s water. With the passage of time Ethiopia called out the unfairness of the treaty and started building the dam at the start of Arab spring in March 2011 when Egypt was distracted.

The situation has been getting serious, people fear the possibility of war, with the looming intervention and mediation of the US there is a dire need to solve the conflict. Cooperation and diplomacy will hopefully trump nationalism, and Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan will come to a solution thus, creating history.