Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam – Ending the Logic of Might Over the Nile Basin [opinion]

Fierce resistance to the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)

project has an unprecedented and g presence in the major circles of Egyptian media, academia and polity based upon the water policy of ‘I win if you lose.’ Recent unsubstantiated hypothetical calculations made by Egyptian officials and opinion makers have suffered from scientific and logical imprecision.

In an interview with Tahrir satellite channel, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on Friday March 7, 2014 reminded Ethiopia that his country would take “a decisive response” on the construction of the GERD if future negotiations failed. He also underscored that “Addis Ababa should bear the consequences of that crisis.” This entails that there are people who would like to ride the boats of the passing ages within the helm of myth, Pax Britannica, Cold War, Pax Americana and unilateral water security cards. Swaying between cooperation and contention, Egypt’s persistence on a choiceless singular water policy to make the Nile River prey to its exclusive utilization, use and development becomes customary. This deep-rooted unquenchable thirst for ‘water imperialism’ and the securitization policy of the River were implanted by Muhammed Ali, the first ruler of present day Egypt. Egypt’s Policy on the Nile entails that Muhammed Ali designed a policy to subsume the whole Nile Basin into an Egyptian Empire. Similarly, all the leaders of Egypt took the same route upholding the ‘monopolistic policy’ over the development, utilization and use of the Nile under the self-originating regime of self-serving ‘rights’. This kind of Egypt’s long-cherished position drums out Ethiopia along with other upper riparian countries from the heads of the Nile Valley into the appendix of the drama of the River’s affairs denounced her and its children as to the myth of Sisyphus to endlessly roll a rock of grinding poverty, sheer indignity, and excruciating famines to the pinnacle of the mountain. The myth of Sisyphus was applied to the poor Ethiopian farmers who were yearning for a small scrap of bread and thirsty for water during those chilly decades of the 1970s and the 1980s. Beyond the horizon of the Ethiopian mountains, Egyptians did not see and experience any calamity as a result of water scarcity, drought and inadequate rainfall as in Ethiopia, barring the decrease of water in Lake Nasser. Robert O. Collins, Professor of History at the University of California, contrasted the traumatic situation in Ethiopia and the elation in Egypt and gave the following conclusion: “…while the Egyptians survived because of the waters stored behind their high dam, a million Ethiopians perished from famine and thirst when the rains did not arrive. They had no dam.”

However, the changing world of the 21st century has rung the bell in which upper riparian countries can no longer be victims of water imperialism cultivated by Egypt’s unquenchable thirst claims of ‘historical rights’ in collaboration with many actors for its only survival. They have also demonstrated that they have the capability to be at the center of their geopolitical and hydro political making as movers of history than moves based upon the equitable, reasonable and fair utilization of resources, including the Nile. Ethiopia has also affirmed that the tragic results of famines, wars and frequent droughts should not be experienced by countries along the banks of the Nile River, Tekezze, and Baro. The GERD is one of the indispensable instruments to prevent such catastrophic experiences of Ethiopia.

On the contrary, Egypt has not come to this age to give birth to a policy that is adapted to the equitable and reasonable use of the Nile waters. The up-streamers are now demanding that their narrative be heard. The commencement of the GERD becomes one important example that changes the discourse of the persistent logic of ‘water security’ – Egypt’s right of the unilateral development of the Nile-ignoring the interests of the upper riparian countries.

Egypt’s logic of might and its unilateral usage of the Nile obscure the pivotal significance of sustained dialogue and genuine cooperation to mutually reap the benefits of the Nile. Besides their policy barring Ethiopia’s logic of right, equity and just has no place to consider the potential benefits of the GERD to Egypt. The GERD is one of the most crucial dams in the region as well as in Africa as it scientifically unleashes the following benefits to both Sudan and Egypt. Being the epicenter of clean and renewable energy in the region, it will help Ethiopia export cheap hydropower to both East and North African regions. This will create a situation that supports the region’s march towards industrialization and modernization. Ethiopia will also satisfy its annual growing power supply demand, which is about 32 percent. The GERD together with the reservoir is indispensable to mitigate frequent droughts and manage flooding in both Egypt and Sudan. This is because as a result of GERD’s hydrological significance and position in regulating and providing sustainable flow in both wet and dry seasons to lower riparian countries. This will assist the region to enhance and intensify agricultural production in lower riparian countries. The GERD will also avoid the deposition of sedimentation and siltation in lower riparian countries’ dams and reservoirs. According to hydrologists, the Blue Nile along with Sobbat and Tekezze annually carries between 157.2 and 207.2 million tons of sediment to Sennar Dam, the Roseires Dam, Merowe Dam, Aswan Dam and others. This huge concentration of sedimentation and siltation in lower riparian dams and reservoirs has affected both Egypt and Sudan to lose millions of dollars to maintenance, replacement of turbines and many other costs. When completed, the GERD will reduce the sedimentation by about 86 percent. In addition to the Dam, the Government of Ethiopia has gone a long way in restructuring the ecosystems of the highlands through water conservation, afforestation programs and other efforts to avoid deforestation and sedimentation.

The up-streamers’ clarion calls for the equitable and fair utilization of the Nile waters to mutually fight against food insecurity, energy scarcity, climate change, drought, famine, poor infrastructure, and poverty as well as other new security threats. Egypt needs to join in the march towards up-streamers’ journey to the summit of African Renaissance making the Nile as a source of cooperation, light and development. According to Mohandas Gandhi, “There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s needs but not every man’s greed.” The Nile is not an exception to this reality. The intense and selfish interest of Egypt to the waters of the Nile has to be lessened. The way forward is to cling to choice, pluralism, shared benefit and shared vision for the entire development of the Basin under the principle of comparative aantage.

Source : The Reporter

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