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The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Apr 11, 2011

Ethiopia Water Strategy Threatens Egypt’s Survival

In previous posts I have shed light on the Nile River, which is the source of Egyptian life and without it, the country could not survive. 85% of the Nile River that reaches Egypt tends to come from the Blue Nile, which starts in Ethiopia and flows through Sudan and Egypt. During the past ten years, there have been continuous discussions

between Egypt the Nile River Basin countries, which consist of nine states, from where the White Nile starts to where it joins the Blue Nile. Ethiopia and the Nile basin countries have been pushing to change the 1929 and 1959 agreements with Egypt, which provides Egypt with 56 billion cu.met. of water per year.

Six of the ten countries have signed new agreements to cancel all previous international agreements regarding water sharing with Egypt. However, Egypt and Sudan have already rejected the proposed new argument. Furthermore, new problems began to emerge as a result of Ethiopia’s new strategy to build more dams on the Blue Nile that will have an impact on Egypt’s share of water.

During the past two decades, Ethiopia has been building dams to generate power and to expand its agricultural productivity.

However, these dams were being built in violation of international law, which states that international waterways, which are shared with other states, should not change their flows if it might affect others.

Nevertheless, Ethiopia began the construction of the following dams during the past two decades without consultations with Sudan or Egypt.

1) The Takizi Dam, with a capacity of 9 billion cu.met of water.

2) The Border Dam near the Sudanese border, with a storage capacity of 15 billion cu.met. of water.

3) The Karasroubi Dam, the Bieku Abu Dam and the Mindaia Dam. The three dams have the total storage capacity of 141 billion cu.met. of water.

All of these constructed dams generate electric power and have the capacity to irrigate at least one million hectare of agricultural lands. (www.ahram.org, 4/4/2011).

These dams were constructed without consultation of both Sudan and Egypt and it is in violation of international law. It is fait accompli type of an Ethiopian government policy, which threatens other countries environmentally, economically and also threatens the human rights of people who depend on the water from these international waterways.

It looks like the Ethiopian government was not satisfied with what they have already accomplished as far as dam construction goes. The Ethiopian prime minister has just announced the beginning of the construction of a huge dam on the Blue Nile River, 40 km from the Sudanese border. It is refereed to as the “Great Alfiah Dam”. The dam will cost around 4.9 billion dollars, which will generate 15,000 mega watts of electric power during the next ten years.

The proposed dam will have a storage capacity of 62 billion cu.met. of water out of the 71 billion cu.met that flows into Egypt.

Experts estimate that the dam will also impact the water level at Lake Nasser, which will decrease from 120 billion cu.met into 75 billion cu.met. by the time it is completed. This also will lower the generated electrical power by 20%.

The negative impact will further increase the underground water salt content, which will impact agricultural productivity in Egypt. (almasry-alyoum.com, 4/2/2011).

The list of dam construction seems to be expanding further. It has been announced that the Ethiopian government is planning to build the third Gibi dam at an estimated cost of 1.4 billion Euros, which will produce 1,800 mega watts of electrical power. Already, more than 400 international agencies “survival international” are objecting to the construction of the dam. Its construction will harm more than 200,000 Ethiopians who depend on fishing for their survival, in addition to agricultural cultivation. (www.aljazeera.net, 4/2/2011).

The impact of the Ethiopian government dams construction on Egypt is very serious and threatening to its survival in the long run. It has been stated by Egyptian experts that the loss of every 5 billion cu.met of water from the Blue Nile will remove one million Feddan (acres) from Egypt’s cultivated lands. This will lead to the deprivation of 5 million Egyptians from their annual income. Furthermore, the total amount of water that dams built by Ethiopia when completed will be equal to 165 billion cu.met. (www.ahram.org, 4/4/2011).

For that reason, the Egyptian prime minister and his water minister, in addition to a group of high-ranking experts, have recently visited Sudan to discuss among other things water security and the proposed joint agricultural projects.

Also they have been in contact with the Ethiopian government to be part of the discussion regarding g the proposed construction of dams.

Discussions are being conducted vis-à-vis international financing banks and states such as China, who is playing a major role in these projects, in addition to Europe and the U.S.

An attempt is being made by Egypt to stop the Ethiopian government water strategy. If this strategy is implemented it will put Egypt under the mercy of Ethiopia.


  1. I think this article is one sided. Totally pro Egyptian and ignores the plight of Ethiopia. The dams are not harmful to Egypt and non of them are in voilation of any international treaty. The aouthor has many things wrong including the name of the dam that is being built. Totally pro Egyptian propoganda.

  2. The way It should be

  3. Thank Anonymous for your comment regarding the Ethiopian Dam Construction. However, I would like to suggest that you read the 1929 and 1959 treaty that Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan and the six Nile River Basin countries have signed. It states, among other things, that any construction affecting the flow of water of the White and Blue Nile should be done only with the agreement of all members. Ethiopia did not discuss its plan either with Egypt of the Sudan. I would like to stress the fact that 85% of Egypt's water comes from the Blue Nile.

  4. Anonymous, I agree with Hani Fakhouri in that there are international dictating the use of the river Nile. But I must admit Mr. Fakhouri, when viewing your article objectively, your article did seem rather biased towards Egypt, and thus I must agree with Anonymous. Many of these up-stream states have undeveloped economies while a vast majority of their peoples have no electricity. While it is true countries such as Ethiopia can depend on other resources, such as rainfall, for sustance of their crops (which much of their economy is based on) history has dictated that these sources are capricious in nature as seen through the famines many of these states are gripped by frequently. Building these dams may help these countries develope a much more stable economy and will most likely bring much need electricity to a greater proportion of their populations. I do understand that much of Egypt's water supply is derived from the Nile, but just because through chance it was able to be situated downstream does not mean that it is to be the sole recepient of the Nile's vast wealth. My suggestion is that every Nile River Basin countries, Sudan, Ethiopia and(especially) Egypt should meet and draft better treaties, better in the sense that all countries may benefit from the resource and create austerity laws that regulate the amount of water that each Nile River Basin country is allowed to divert so that Egypt and Sudan are not necessarily the victims of the up-stream countries. I do think that it is possible for all countries to benefit.