Nile fears turn toward south
By Ibrahim Al-Jack
The African Research and Studies Centre at the International University of Africa held a forum last week titled “Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Its Effects on Egypt and Sudan.”
The minister of electricity and irrigation, Dr. Tabitha Butrus; the Ethiopian irrigation minister; the Ethiopian ambassador to Sudan, Abadi Zemo; and many experts in agriculture, irrigation, and environment attended the forum.
Ethiopia denies any intention to block water from Egypt and Sudan.
The Ethiopian irrigation minister, Ilambo Timno, denied any intentions to block water saying that Ethiopia only wants to use the dam to generate electricity. He mentioned that late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zinawi called on both Sudan and Egypt to take part in establishing the dam, but they have not.
He promised that Ethiopia has no hidden agenda. “The dam has many positive effects on the Nile Basin countries,” he claimed.
He continued, “Forums like these offer the chance to exchange points of view, opinions, and more research.”
He explained that the dam will help maintain the water level all year round and increase fishery production. Sudan will also benefit immensely, considering that there will be an abundance of water supply, especially in River Atbara, that can be used to improve agriculture and develop areas on the border between Sudan and Ethiopia. He called for partnerships to be built among Nile Basin countries to realise mutual benefits. Again, he denied that there is any reason for Egypt and Sudan to be wary of the dam.
Former Irrigation Minister Professor Saif Aldin Hamad said Ethiopia has 123 billion cubic metres of water, of which 97% is not used. He added that very little land is cultivated where water is scarce. The area surrounding the dam is not incapable of cultivation, he continued, but Sudan will benefit from the dam, considering it is dependent on the natural flow of the Nile and does not have and does not have the means to store its waters. That is where the Ethiopian dam comes in. It will help by storing up water, from which Sudan will benefit in more than way, such as: limited evaporation and doubled electricity production in Roseiris, Sinnar, and Meroe.
The benefits from the Ethiopian dam can be fairly imaginable, given that it stores up 74 billion cubic metres of water.
Advantages of the dam
The Ethiopian minister of energy and mining, Alfakki Ahmed Najash, said Ethiopia and Sudan will benefit immensely from this dam in irrigation and agriculture. But, he added, Nile Basin countries have different opinions on it.
Engineer Abdulhalim Alturabi said there are many benefits that can be reaped from this dam, but cooperation in establishing and running it is a prerequisite. He went on to say, “Ethiopia does not have vast land that can be farmed, and Sudan does. Ethiopia, therefore, cannot afford hostile relations with Sudan. The two countries must build their relations around being totally open with each other. They must exchange benefits because, in Sudan’s perspective, Ethiopia has a lot of potential and a work force that Sudan is in need of.”
Importance of Consensus on the Dam
A political analyst, Professor Hassan Alsaori, said it is important for the Nile Basin countries to have a consensus on the dam, especially as Ethiopia will control 86% of the Nile’s water after the dam is completed.
He said consensus is important, because without it, Ethiopia will have the upper hand and leverage in any dispute among Nile Basin countries because it will hold the “Nile water card.”
He said it is only fair that Egypt and Sudan take part in establishing and running the dam to be certain that their part of the Nile is safe.
Fears are steered south
Many experts argue that Ethiopia does not want to make a unilateral move regarding the dam to ensure it does not threaten regional security. In that regard, it is most careful to reassure Sudan and Egypt.
But the same experts were wary of South Sudan, considering that it controls the White Nile, the other source of the Great Nile. That is problematic because the West and Israel could use their influence with South Sudan to put pressure on Egypt. Sudan and Egypt have doubts that the newly founded and politically unstable country of South Sudan would take unilateral steps to decrease the portions of Nile water to which Sudan and Egypt are entitled. Such a step would jeopardise the regional and national security of Egypt and that of Sudan in the process.