February 11, 2019 (Ezega.com) - A meeting between the leaders of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on Sunday resolved to provide a high-level political umbrella to sustain the deliberations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The three leaders; Omar al-Bashir, Abiy Ahmed and Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi met on the sidelines briefly during the African Union (AU) summit held in the capital.
Bassam Radi, the Egyptian presidential spokesperson stressed the importance of adopting a cooperative and balanced vision for the filling and operation of the dam to find a way of serving the interest of the three nations.
He suggested the three heads of state underscored the importance of adopting a unified view on the dam based on the declaration of principles agreed upon in Khartoum. He further revealed the leaders deliberated on the ways and means of promoting relations and cooperation among their countries.
Looking at Egypt on Google Earth, you’ll see a continuous green line via a sand-colored landscape. As per Sarah Lazarus of the CNN, it represents the vegetation that grows on both sides of River Nile and its delta. This patch represents Egypt’s only fertile land…. and it’s also a testament to the nation’s reliance on the river.
River Nile extends to 11 countries, but Egypt…being one of the most ancient civilizations in the world…has enjoyed control over it and has used a lion’s share of its waters for years.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Egypt is facing a serious water scarcity that is bound to worsen upon the completion of the GERD. In 2014, the country had 637 cubic meters per capita, compared to America that had 9,538, nearly 15 times more than Egypt’s.
With the United Nation’s Population Division predicting Egypt’s population growth to reach 153 million by 2050, the North African nation is on the right track hit “absolute water scarcity,” of less than 500 cubic meters per capita….as per FAO, without factoring the effects of the dam construction.
The Change in Conversation:
Discussions among the Nile River countries had rumbled for almost a decade before Ethiopia arrived at the bold decision to construct it without consulting Egypt.
In 2013, Egypt’s former president Mohammed Morsi- in a televised speech- said he was not advocating for war with Ethiopia, but his country’s water security will not be violated. “If Egypt’s share of the Nile diminished by one drop, our blood is the alternative,” he said.
When these threats failed to shake the Ethiopian government, Egypt resorted to a more diplomatic approach. Egyptian authorities decided to talk to Ethiopia, which represented a change in the conversation.
The Common Ground:
In 2015, the three countries signed a memorandum on the GERD project that implicitly approves the dam construction, but called for technical studies to safeguard each country’s water quotas.
On the 22nd of September 2014, a committee comprising of members from the three nations suggested the conduction of two additional studies. The first one on its effect on the water quota of Egypt and Sudan and the second to investigate its economic, ecological and social impact on the two countries.
Artelia and BRL groups from France was selected to carry out the environmental impact assessment, whereas a U.K, law firm called Corbett & Co was nominated to handle any legal affairs that may arise during the committee’s sittings.
In May last year, the three nations agreed to form a joint technical team -comprising of five representatives from each country- to examine the filling of the reservoir and the dam’s operation upon completion. Egypt withdrew its proposal and approached the World Bank on the issue.
As water scarcity looms in many parts of the world, all eyes will be on the test case playing out along the Nile.
By Solomon O. for Ezega News