Egyptian politicians are enraged by Ethiopia’s plans to divert the waters of the Nile and some have gone as far as calling for military action.
Egypt is still in shock over Ethiopia’s May 28 announcement, in which it said it was diverting the flow of the Nile River to facilitate the building of a dam on the Blue Nile.
In the fourth century BCE, Greek historian Herodotus proclaimed Egypt the gift of the Nile – and this still resonates today. The mighty river surging from the depths of Africa to the Mediterranean, with its more than 4,000-mile course, is the lifeblood of Egypt and has made a flourishing civilization possible since the dawn of history.
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Ninety-five percent of the country is relentless desert, the continuation of the Sahara, and the Nile not only water the lands it passes through, it carries loose soil taken from Africa and deposits it along its banks. In this way, it turns them into a narrow strip of fertile land – inhabiting a mere 40,000 square kilometers, or 4% of a country of 1 million square kilometers.
North of Cairo the river divides into two branches running to the sea, thus creating a delta in which most of Egypt’s agriculture is concentrated.
Altogether, 96% of a population numbering an estimated 85 million people lives in the Nile Valley.
For untold generations, Egypt has been accustomed to seeing the Nile as its own property, only grudgingly allowing Sudan – which was long under Egyptian rule and considered a sister Arab country contributing to its security – to have a small part of the river’s flow.
According to the treaty signed in 1929, at a time when both countries and part of Africa were under British rule, out of the 85 billion cubic meters flowing annually in the river, Egypt received 48 billion and Sudan 4 billion.
Egypt was given full control of the Nile, while African countries were forbidden to build dams on the river or its tributaries; Egypt also had the right to carry out checks to make sure that the treaty was respected. In accordance with the treaty, Egypt still maintains today a permanent delegation of engineers stationed near Lake Victoria, source of the White Nile, to supervise the activities of the countries along the river.
In 1959, the treaty was amended so that Egypt received 55.5 billion cubic meters and Sudan 18.5, for a total of 87% of the annual flow accrued through the rains – leaving a mere 13% to the Upper Nile countries of Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya and Congo.
The amended treaty gave Egypt the right to build the Aswan Dam, and its Lake Nasser reservoir holds 168 billion cubic meters of water. The dam made it possible for Egypt to boost its production of electricity to 2,100 megawatts and to regulate the flow of the river, putting an end to the annual flooding that impacted Cairo and other …read more