Escalating tension between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Nile

Nile River/ wikipedia

CAIRO, March 5, 2014 — Ethiopia announced this week that it had completed 32% of the Renaissance Dam, raising serious concerns in Egypt about the water from the Nile.

According to Miskir Negash, the spokesman for the project, Ethiopia is intensifying efforts to complete the project to improve energy generation. The dam will also create 7,000 jobs initially, and more as work progresses.

In response, Egypt has organized several meetings with the European ambassadors to express its concern about the project and how it will impact Egypt’s ability to access the waters of the Nile. Egyptian authorities said that the Ethiopian dam will reduce the water flow that is Egypt’s life by at least 20%.

The NileRiver from the source of its remotest headstream – the RuvironzaRiver, southwest of LakeVictoria- measures about 4,145 miles. The Nile system gathers its waters from nine countries: Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zaire, the Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt.

The Nile supplies Egypt with 95% of its water. According to a report of the ministry of water resources and irrigation, Egypts water needs will increase 20% by 2020 because of population increases. Egypt’s population is estimated to reach 98.7 million by 2025.

Political analysts note that any water shortages will  have a direct impact on food supply.

Christine Anderson, Associate Professor of international water law at the AmericanUniversity in Cairo in her book Climate Change , Water Governance, Law and State  survival in the Arab World, wrote, “There are no remedies put in place to prevent a future food crisis”.

Last month, Egypt’s Minister of Water Abdel Moteleb traveled to Addis Ababa to relay Egypt’s concerns, but failed to resolve the issue. In a press conference, Abdel Moteleb said that Egypt is not against development in Ethiopia, but demand on the participation of international experts in the construction of the Renaissance dam. Egypt also is seeking guarantees that Ethiopia will continue to provide water to downstream countries.

Ethiopian Ministry of Water spokesperson Dina Mufti said that there is no need to include more international representatives on a panel that already has two members from Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt and four others representing the international community. Mufti added that rumors of Israeli involvement in the project were being deliberately spread by Egypt in the hope of gaining anti-dam sentiments among Arab States.  Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailermariam Desalegn insists that Egypt will lose if it refers the hydroelectric dam project to international arbitration.


Egyptian concerns over the dam remain high. If the two sides continue to fail to reach an agreement, Cairo may seek international arbitration to settle the dispute.

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Anwaar Abdalla
Anwaar Abadallah Khalik Ibrahim has her Ph.D. from Ain Shams University (1999, first degree honour) and currently lectures on Civilization and Cultural Affairs for Helwan University. Dr. Abdalla Kahlik Ibrahim also works as an official coordinator for the cultural exchange program between Helwan Uni and TSU in the USA entitled “Cultural Immersion 2011-2014.” Additionally, Ms. Abdallah is a member of the Egyptian and Arab women’s writer’s union and the Cairo Women Association. She is also the translator of several books published by the Ministry of Culture including Shadows on the Grass, Impossible Peace and The Secret Rapture. Dr. Ibrahim is also an accomplished author and essayist in both Arabic and English publications.
  • tesfay haile

    It’s reach 100% soon later next year

  • Amora k

    Egyptian needs to take deep breath and welcome the new reality.
    It wasn’t Ethiopia’s fault for being the source of Nile. Egypt need to abandon the old bad habit and start to work with Ethiopia. plus Egypt have to start to invest heavily on water technologies. You need to figure it out where to get your next water before your lips start to dry.

  • Dave

    Ethiopia should have built many small dams many decades ago to feed their people…Egypt’s desire for “free” water is understandable, but not realistic as two bodies of water hit their shores…wind turbines can power the desalination plants quite similar to Israel’s use of modern technology…Dr. Ibrahim you have no scientific degree, why do enter the debate?…what did you say when Egypt built their huge dam??

    • eli

      Yes, it is something they are getting for free. They should have asked politely

  • Anteneh

    Egypt’s need is clear, no water for Ethiopia or upper nile basin countries. A clear evidence for this is that they signed twice treaties with Sudan ignoring the whole upper nile basin countries. Now, they want to appear as if they are innocent.

  • Ethiopian

    Egypt has no moral or legal justification to interfere in any Ethiopia’s development projects. It is our business! But we still maintain moral share of Nile water for fellow Egyptians.

  • Semalign

    Too little too late !!! We will build the Nation and Our water is ours !! No free lunch for the greedy politicians in Egypt.They are barking, intimidating Ethiopia,…but why??? Is the river in their teritory ?

  • Ethiopoia

    Ofcaurse this would scare Egypt but for the betterment of both countries their officials should see the long term benefits of projects they make and surely Ethiopia wouldn’t put the lives of 84 million people in danger but it doesn’t mean just because Egypt is uncoftable millions of people in Ethiopia will continue to starve for years to come things will change becouse of the political choices Egypt has made in the past becouse of the long wars Ethiopia has suffered Ethiopia could no longer rely on rain fall so projects around Nile are inevitable Guess Egypt didn’t see this one coming 40 years ago when it was going around ploting wars on us , so we have to see the long term solution now before it is too late