The longest river in the world, the Nile, is a major life source, especially to semi-arid/arid countries like Sudan and Egypt. Therefore, when Ethiopia announced plans to build the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, the tributary which arises in Ethiopia and supplies 80% of the Nile's water during the rainy season, Egypt and Sudan went up in arms. What would this mean for them? Would their water source be cut off? Following the announcement, the Nile Dam Crisis set off.
There have been several water-sharing disputes involving countries in the Nile basin, and attempts to solving the disputes include several equitable water-sharing agreements. What makes the Nile Dam Crisis different is that it comes at a time when fears concerning climate change are peaking, and justifiably so. Between apocalyptic forest fires in all corners of the world, extreme weather events becoming more frequent and more disastrous, and water becoming more and more scarce, the Nile Dam Crisis is a sign of the times. According to the UN, 1.8 billion people will experience water scarcity by 2025. 250 million people rely on the Nile for water that may not exist by 2080. It makes sense why Ethiopia wants to build the dam, and it makes sense why Egypt and Sudan are worried about their water supply being cut off.
The tensions resulting from the crisis have far-reaching implications as they threaten the peace and stability of the region. Fortunately, the three countries have moved closer to formalising a water-sharing deal after technical teams meeting in Khartoum drew up a draft agreement. The Khartoum meeting comes in the heels of a Washington meeting two weeks ago. Another meeting is due in Washington on January 28.
The spokesman for the Sudanese Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Muhammad Al-Sebaie, said technical teams had looked over suggestions from all the three countries in an earlier January 13 meeting in Washington, under the auspices of the US Treasury and the World Bank. Al-Sebaie indicated that the meeting had borne some fruit, as there had been some form of “convergence”. The teams agreed on initially filling up to a significant portion of its height (the dam is 155 metres high), to ensure electricity generation for Ethiopia. Thereafter, the subsequent filling will depend on weather conditions and there would be a joint implementation committee to oversee when to suspend filling, reducing volumes or surging the flow. The teams remain to discuss how to fill up the dam in stages during the months of July, August and September based on drought or rain conditions. Specifics such as what constitutes severe drought or sufficient rainfall remain to be discussed.
Construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam has been controversial since it began in 2011. The dam's construction has been delayed for 7 years.