Posted Tuesday, February 21 2012 at 19:10
The impact of climate change is likely to exacerbate the water scarcity in Nile Basin in which most of its members have already been identified as water deficient countries. If such phenomena is not addressed it might lead to a regional conflict over water.
Without an agreeable water allocation mechanism and with realisation that the status quo on the Nile water usage is unsustainable, the ten riparian states: Burundi, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eriteria, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda established the Nile Basin Initiative in February 1999.
They agreed on shared vision “to achieve sustainable socio-economic development through equitable utilisation of and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources”.
In 2009, the Nile Basin Council of Minister responsible for water affairs concluded its negotiations on the Nile River Basin Co-operative Framework Agreement.
The agreement inter alia calls for the establishment of a permanent Nile River Basin Commission to facilitate co-operative management and development of the Nile. So far the agreement has been signed by on six upper riparian countries whose usage of Nile waters has been historically severely restricted.
The draft stipulates two substantive rules on water allocation, which are borrowed from the Convention on Law of Non-navigational uses of International Waters.
First, the “equitable and reasonable use” rule that grant each of the Nile Basin states property right to use Nile water in an equitable and reasonable manner within their respective jurisdiction. Second, the ‘no harm rule’ obligates the Nile Basin states to utilise the Nile water within their respective territories without causing significant harm to other basin states.
The Nile River Co-operative framework was signed by all members’ state of the basin with exception of Congo, Eriteria Egypt and Sudan. Notably Egypt has been reluctant to endorse the new agreement because the ratification of the agreement threatens their exclusive right over the usage of the Nile River based on international law.
Article 14 of the agreement on water security is the bone of contention.
The article reads, “Nile Basin States therefore agree, in a spirit of co-operation: (a) to work together to ensure that all states achieve and sustain water security; (b) not to significantly affect the water security of any other Nile Basin State.”
Egypt proposed Article 14 (b) to read, “not to adversely affect the water security and current uses and rights of any other Nile Basin State”.
The insertion of the five words would water down the main motivation of the agreement as stipulated in Article 4 on “equitable and reasonable utilisation” of the Nile waters.
The other countries rejected this proposal. Egypt and its counterpart, Sudan fear that the coming into force of this agreement will drastically reduce their water supply as upstream countries undertake projects on the Nile.
Article 4(2)(d) of the Co-operative Framework bids the Nile Basin states to take into consideration the effects of the use or uses of the water resources in one Basin State on other Basin States.
If Egypt signs the agreement, it can use this sub-section to argue their case.