Egypt’s Nile Threats Weaken to Secure Water Case: Former Ambassador David Shinn

Egypt must drop its objection to an Ethiopian dam on the main tributary of the Nile River or it may struggle to ensure adequate supplies from the world’s longest waterway, former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn said.

A $4.3 billion, 6,000-megawatt hydropower plant, set to be Africa’s largest on completion in 2017, has raised concern in Egypt that it will cut supplies of water allocated by accords put in place more than five decades ago. President Mohamed Mursi told supporters in Cairo on June 10 his government will “defend each drop of Nile water with our blood” if the country’s water security is threatened.

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The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project, funded solely by Ethiopia’s government, is a “game-changer” because Egypt has historically blocked international financing for large upstream Nile projects, Shinn said on June 12. The best way for Egypt to secure its water needs is by cooperating on the project that could be “transformational” in terms of industrializing East African economies, he said.

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“Ethiopia is the only country in the region that has the water to make a huge contribution to increased availability of electricity,” Shinn said in an e-mailed response to questions. “It could solve all of Ethiopia’s power needs, sell power at a profit to neighbors, help control periodic flooding in Sudan and contribute significantly to regional economic integration.”

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River Diverted

Ethiopia announced the project on the Blue Nile River, the largest of the Nile’s two tributaries, a month after former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was deposed in February 2011. Last month, Ethiopia diverted the flow of the Blue Nile as part of the construction process.

Ethiopia is the source of 86 percent of the water that flows into the Nile, a river that runs 4,160 miles through 11 countries from Burundi in the south to Egypt, where it empties into the Mediterranean Sea. … Read More on Bloomberg

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