Tension escalate b/w Egypt and Ethiopia over Nile water diversion

Dispute b/w Egypt and Ethiopia has resurfaced over the diversion of a major Nile tributary even as Ethiopia continues construction of Africa’s biggest dam, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, on the world’s longest river.

What is the issue?

Background:

Nile, which is also famous as the longest river on the planet, is considered to originate from Lake Victoria. The river is lifeline to 11 countries namely Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt who share its water resources.

The Nile has two major tributaries, the White Nile and Blue Nile. The White Nile is longer and rises in the Great Lakes region of central Africa, with the most distant source still undetermined but located in either Rwanda or Burundi. It flows north through Tanzania, Lake Victoria, Uganda and South Sudan. The Blue Nile is the source of most of the water and fertile soil. It begins at Lake Tana in Ethiopia and flows into Sudan from the southeast. The two rivers meet near the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

Conflict:

As the water resources of the Nile is shared by many countries, the self-interest of each country and their political, strategic, and social differences has led to disputes over water sharing. Several attempts have been made to establish agreements between the countries sharing the Nile water which is largely dominated by Egypt. Countries including Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya have complained about Egyptian domination.

Ethiopia, which is constructing Africa’s biggest dam, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile, has diverted the course of the Blue Nile to commence construction of the dam. The 6000-megawatt, $4.3 billion hydropower project has stirred controversy since it was first announced in March 2011. Ethiopia is the source of the Blue Nile, a major tributary that joins the White Nile in Sudan and accounts for nearly 60% of Nile water. Once complete, the dam shall stand at the head of a 74 billion cubic metre reservoir, the filling of which is expected to critically disrupt downstream flows to Egypt and Sudan.

Egypt is against the diversion of water as it depends on the river for almost all its fresh water requirements and consumes two-thirds of the water under a colonial agreement first signed in 1929. The treaty divides the water b/w Sudan and Egypt and overlooks the claims of eight other nations that share the waters.

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