Monday, September 24, 2012

Egypt's Irrigation Minister Panic about Ethiopian "Death Dam of Zenawie even after his death NEPAD

Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Dr. Mohamed Bahaa eddin on 22/9/2012 said that Egypt is still having concerns about the construction of Ethiopia’s dam due to its quantum storage capacity. He confirmed that Ethiopia is yet to start with the construction of he dam.
Meanwhile, he noted that the Ethiopian foreign ministry assured Egypt and Sudan that in case there was any impact on their water quota due to the dam other projects will be carried out to collect lost water and cover shortage.
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Egypt: Irrigation Minister – We Have Concerns About the Construction of Ethiopian Dam
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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Egypt, Ethiopia can build new Nile River water relationship

CAIRO: Despite a Wikileaks report that claimed Egypt was looking to attack Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam project along the Nile River, with Sudan approval, there is still hope that the two countries can rebuild a relationship based on compromise on Nile water issues.
With the ascension of new Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to the country’s top position, the time is now for both Cairo and Addis Ababa to forge ahead with new strategies that will benefit both countries’ peoples along the world’s longest river.
In early August ahead of Ethiopia’s PM Meles Zenawi’s death, hope for change was already being felt. An Egyptian ministry of water and irrigation told that with the combination of Egypt’s new President Mohamed Morsi and the potential of seeing a new leader in Ethiopia, they hoped the tension over Nile River water could be resolved.
“While this can in no way be official policy at this point, I believe that there would be more maneuvering with a new leadership in Ethiopia because there would be the ability to communicate and not be seen as antagonistic,” the official said, adding that they were not authorized to speak to the media.
“Let us be frank about the situation between Egypt and other Nile countries,” the official continued. “We in Egypt have not been the best at compromise so I think overall, there is so much that can be done to help bring countries together, and Ethiopia has been a leader in its criticism of Egypt so starting there would be good.”
With the Nile comes a new set of issues, and with Egypt holding onto a lion’s share of water from the world’s largest river, upstream countries such as Ethiopia have taken it on their own to begin building dams and other water related endeavors, much to the anger of Cairo.
However, officials hope that solutions can be had in the new post-revolution Egypt that could see the growing tension between countries along the Nile reduce.
“While Egypt never wants to mingle in another country’s affairs, a new leadership in Ethiopia would go a long way to changing how things are run, just like it has in Egypt,” the official added.
Now that both countries have new leadership, it is time to end the infighting and revamp Colonial treaties brokered during British rule of the region. Those treaties deliver the lion’s share of water to Egypt and Sudan, which has led to consternation and frustration by many of the upstream countries, who need more water to promote better agricultural reform and fend off famine and drought.
Together, through new policies such as desalination in Egypt, funding could go to the development of the Nile River in a manner that is beneficial to both Egypt and Ethiopia, which could avoid any potential conflict that is brewing in the region.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The: Egypt and Sudan firm up Nile River water alliance:

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy (right) and Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir. The two Islamist leaders are forging a united front on the use of the Nile River, a contentious issue for the countries that share its waters.   PHOTO | AFP
They are not ordinary neighbours; they have a shared history and continue to drink from one well, the vital River Nile. They also speak the same language and sit in the same meetings as members of the Arab League, and both are non-signatories to the Rome Statute. This is the law that paved way for the formation of the International Criminal Court.
In a way, the similar interests of Sudan and Egypt seem to keep them close to each other.
When President Omar al-Bashir arrived in Cairo for a brief official visit last weekend, activists predictably, but in vain, came out with their demands for his arrest. For three years, Mr Bashir has been wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes allegedly committed in his country's region of Darfur. So far, he has managed to escape the court's net.
Despite the trials and tribulations that Sudan and Egypt are currently going through, both have managed to maintain a strong alliance of sorts, and now with an Islamist president in either country, it looks only natural that kinship will be further cemented and enhanced.
Mr Bashir, also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was one of the first presidents to officially visit Egypt following the revolt that brought an end to Hosni Mubarak's regime. Both he and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy emphasised the importance of bilateral partnership, dialogue, trade, cooperation and most importantly, an agreement on the Nile water.
Undoubtedly, one of the core issues that a number of African countries are grappling with is that of the River Nile, with disputes over water rights with neighbouring Nile Basin countries remaining unresolved.
A warning shot
In what must be construed as a warning to the other Nile waters sharing countries, both President Bashir and his Egyptian counterpart reaffirmed their countries “identical position” in regards to the water dispute.
Mr Morsy's spokesperson did not hide the fact that the issue of the Nile Water is “an Egyptian national security issue". The two countries receive 55 billion ( Egypt) and 18.5 billion ( Sudan) cubic meters of water annually thanks to a series of agreements that date back to 1929 and drawn by Britain when it was the main colonising power over much of the continent.
The upstream countries maintain that these agreements, which also give the two countries veto powers over projects deemed as “harmful' to their interests, where signed during the “colonial era, and should be rewritten to allow countries to equally share in the river's economic potential.”
One of Egypt long standing objectives over the body of water is that it would never consider the calls for a decrease in its annual share, in fact it would actively seek to increase it – already both Egypt and Sudan control approximately 87 per cent of the water resources of the Nile.
Back in 2010 then Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, following the signing of the the Cooperative Framework Agreement water treaty by Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania, flatly stated Egypt's annual share would not be affected.
That view has pretty much remained unchanged in the eyes of the newly elected government and whilst it also seeks to increase that share, it has been at pains to add that this is "through cooperation and coordination with the Nile Basin countries", not unilaterally.
Marked change
This signals a marked change to the policies adopted by Mubarak regime especially as African nations ambitions have been recognised and followed through as in the case of Ethiopia and the development of its hydroelectric resources such as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Africa's largest hydroelectricity project.
Egypt's disregard to African politics and refusal to further build bi-lateral agreements in the past few decades has been to its detriment as countries such as Burundi, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda et al have all taken concrete steps to protect their access to the water resource as well as seeking to redress the colonial-era agreements heavily in favour of Cairo that give it the bulk of the continent's longest river.
Moreover, the Nile Basin Initiative, the multilateral organisation comprising all upstream and downstream countries in the Nile Basin region set up to “achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through the equitable utilisation of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources", now has ten members following the admittance of South Sudan which could potentially be a spanner in the works for both Sudan and Egypt.
The 1959 water treaty did not consider the possibility of South Sudan seceding from it's northern neighbour, so legal rights to the Nile by Africa's newest nation is another factor that undoubtedly must also be considered.
This fear was illustrated in the Wikileaks leaked diplomatic cables which revealed that back in 2009 “Cairo was uncomfortable with a divided Sudan, fearing an independent South would threaten its stranglehold on the River Nile waters. A former foreign ministry official had even asked the US government to help postpone the January 2011 referendum by four to six years.
Charm offensive
The official said the creation of a "non-viable state" could threaten Egypt's access to Nile waters and so to the country's agriculture. Khartoum could also be affected by the South's independence with one analysis arguing it has “been weakened by the secession of the South and with many observers almost certain that Juba will work with the upstream states to force the North and Egypt to agree to a new treaty.
It is noticeable that President Morsy's government has gone on a charm offensive with its African counterparts, with the newly elected head of state visiting Addis Ababa during the African Union summit meeting – something which his predecessor refused to do following the attempted assassination on his life in the Ethiopian capital back in 1995.
President Morsy emphasised the need for stronger ties saying: "I would like to officially announce that Egypt has a desire to work towards a common African market. Egypt will use its human and financial resources to ensure that. We stress our concern with education, health, construction and development."
That the Egyptians are worried in regards to the Nile is not in doubt, especially with Ethiopia's grand dam plans further hinting at the Nile Basin countries determination to move ahead with their water development plans.
This view was emphasised by Mohamed Nasr El Din Allam, the former Egyptian Minister of water and irrigation from 2009 until early 2011 when he stated in an interview that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam would cause "political, economic and social instability," in the North African country.
Forced hand
What steps Khartoum and Cairo will take is still unclear, but the signs do point to a more conciliatory tone though not to the extent where they will agree nor accept the demands of the other Nile Basin countries unconditionally.
It's also fair to say both countries will work in tandem with each other and to the benefit of themselves. Matters could come to a head and force all the countries involved to take much needed pragmatic steps in resolving the issue with Egypt and Sudan forced to re-consider their past positions as it is clear their Nile Basin counterparts have moved to rectify what they view as one-sided agreements as seen in the signing of the Entebbe Agreement by Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya which Cairo called a “national security” threat.
Back in 2005 Boutros Boutros Ghali, the former UN Secretary General and Egyptian foreign minister, famously stated that future conflicts and military confrontations would be over water rights, one hopes in regards to the Nile it will not reach that stage.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Support for UN Water Treaty Accelerates | Circle of Blue WaterNews

Progress on the treaty, which deals with transboundary water basins, or those shared by two or more countries, had stalled — until a major conservation group got involved.
By Brett Walton
Circle of Blue
international river basins
Photo courtesy of Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database
According to researchers at Oregon State University, there are 276 river basins that are shared by two or more countries. The UN Watercourses Convention lays out principles for managing these basins.
Fifteen years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a framework convention for bodies of water shared by two or more countries. The UN Watercourses Convention, as it is called, lays out a set of principles that should be addressed when negotiating international water management agreements.
After a burst of ratifications in the early days, followed by a dead period in the mid-2000s when only three countries adopted it in five years, the convention has recently seen new life.
What Is The UN Watercourses Convention?
The convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1997 by a vote of 103-3, with 27 abstentions. The convention’s history, however, reaches much farther back, to 1970, when the General Assembly told its legal arm to develop draft articles relating to the non-navigational uses of rivers.
The body of the convention has 37 articles, and an annex on arbitration holds another 14. The articles address things like sharing information on planned projects, exchanging data on water resources, preventing pollution, and protecting ecosystems.
Just this year, six countries have jumped on board: Benin, Denmark, and Luxembourg have officially approved the convention; Italy has signed everything except for the paperwork at the UN; Ireland and the United Kingdom said in June that they would ratify it.
In all, 27 countries have completed the process, leaving the convention just eight ratifications short of the 35 necessary for it to come into force. When that happens, the ratifying countries will be obligated to follow the convention’s provisions.
Legal experts told Circle of Blue that the convention is important because it sets a standard. Even now, its principles serve as a model. Two river basin agreements signed since 1997 — for the Nile River and for the Southern African Development Community, a regional group of 15 countries — have referred to and copied language from the convention.
“By itself, it won’t resolve anything,” said Joseph Dellapenna, a Villanova University law professor who has helped summarize international water law. “But it will strengthen the hand of those who are negotiating water agreements.”
Alistair Rieu-Clarke, an expert on transboundary water cooperation at the Centre for Water Law, Policy, and Science at the University of Dundee, Scotland, said that each ratification adds to the convention’s persuasive power.
“If enough countries adopt it, we can say the convention is reflective of customary international law,” Rieu-Clarke told Circle of Blue. “The opposite is also true — if it is not in force, countries can question whether it is really necessary to cooperate with core principles, such as notifying basin partners about water development projects and giving them a chance to respond.”
It Needed A Champion
That the convention is even close to 35 signatures is largely due to the work of one organization. In 2006, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), a major conservation group, decided to put its weight behind the convention.
“Most of our priority places for conservation are drained by international watercourses,” explained Flavia Loures, WWF’s point person for the watercourses initiative. “A lack of cooperation between countries over water resources was preventing us from achieving our goals.”
“A lack of cooperation between countries over water resources was preventing us from achieving our goals.”
–Flavia Loures, program officer
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
There are 276 international watercourses, or river basins, shared by two or more countries. Roughly 40 percent of the world’s people live in one of these basins.
“We looked at our on-the-ground work,” Loures told Circle of Blue, “and asked, ‘What could we add to that, to strengthen water governance?’”
The answer, it turns out, would be obvious to a political strategist.
The convention needed a lobbyist, someone to cut through the noise and bring the message directly to national governments — after all, they are the ones responsible for ratification and are sometimes oblivious to the sausage being cranked out at UN headquarters in New York.
“The convention never really had a champion for the cause back in 1997,” said Rieu-Clarke, who has helped WWF research why there was widespread support in the UN General Assembly but just a handful of ratifications.
Back then, the convention was lost in the congestion of a few frenetic years of international treaty-making, Rieu-Clarke said. The 1990s saw international treaties on climate change, desertification, and biodiversity, plus the Kyoto Protocol for greenhouse gas emissions and the Rio Declaration on principles of sustainable development.
Contentious and Controversial
The most contentious articles deal with water-sharing and avoiding harm. Article 5 states that countries should use water “in an equitable and reasonable manner,” while Article 7 says that countries should prevent “significant harm” to others in the basin.
This is a problem when new users — generally those in the upper reaches of a basin — want to use more water, and countries downstream do not want to let go of their historical entitlement. The classic example is the Nile River Basin, where upstream Ethiopia wants to build dams and expand its irrigated acreage, while downstream Egypt, fearing for its national security and economy, maintains that doing so would cut down the flow of the Nile, its lifeline.
The watercourses convention, though it covers aquifers connected to river systems, does not address confined aquifers that cross national borders.
Confined aquifers — such as the massive Nubian system in North Africa — are surrounded by impermeable rock and do not receive water. The General Assembly will consider draft articles governing these aquifers in 2013.
“Maybe the watercourses convention was one convention too many,” he surmised.
In any case, Loures and Rieu-Clarke did find that many government officials were simply unaware of what the watercourses convention was or did. So WWF began holding workshops with government ministries in places like West Africa and Central America.
Ratification Process
“The convention is now in the spotlight,” Loures said. “Countries are talking about it.”
The length of the ratification process varies. Loures said that Nigeria — which marked it a priority — sped through ratification in a matter of months. In Benin, however, almost five years passed before Parliament approved the convention.
Any number of obstacles can disrupt ratification. National elections can distract government officials and internal political chaos, as was the case in Guinea-Bissau in 2010, can push a water treaty far down on the domestic to-do list.
But the convention is now on a relatively clear path. Loures said that at least five more countries–the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Niger and Senegal–appear to be on track to complete the process in the next few months. That would bring the number of parties to 32. Another five countries, she said, are working a bit slower.
In a perfect world, the convetion would come into force next year, which the UN has declared the International Year of Water Cooperation. A nice bit of symmetry for a treaty long in the making.
Author: Brett Walton

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