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Posts Tagged ‘Blue Nile’

Sacred Rivers: The Spiritual Side of The Ganges, The Nile and The Yangtze

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on October 12, 2014

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As his new television series ‘Sacred Rivers’ begins, Simon Reeve reveals the spiritual side of the Ganges, the Nile and the Yangtze

Outside a small hillside shrine at Gish Abay in the lush highlands of Ethiopia a large crowd had gathered under the sweltering midday sun. They were waiting patiently by a shack with a tin roof for Orthodox priests to bless them with water from an unimpressive little stream. But as it dribbles through a grassy meadow and tumbles down a rocky hill, hundreds of other trickles and torrents join it, and the stream is transformed into the mighty Nile.

I was visiting Gish Abay, revered by millions as the source of the world’s longest river, while filming Sacred Rivers, a new TV series for which I travelled the length of the Nile, the Yangtze and the Ganges.

The three journeys were rollicking adventures and an opportunity to explore remote and magnificent areas of the world, while having my brain fed with stories about the cultures, religions and countries that have emerged along some of our greatest rivers. They were also eye-opening experiences and often extremely moving.

Hundreds of pilgrims had travelled from across Ethiopia to the source of the Nile, either to give thanks for the holy waters, or to seek good fortune or healing for a depressing list of ailments. There was both wailing and joy. One young woman told me, with the certainty of the pious, that her kidney infection had just been cured by contact with the water.

The shrine at the source is underwhelming, but the veneration of the water made absolute sense to me. The Nile is life-giving. In the arid regions of north-eastern Africa, human existence would be virtually impossible without it. The same is true of the Ganges and Yangtze. Rivers have helped to shape the development of human civilisation. What could be more normal than to thank and praise God or the gods for the magical, mysterious gift of a river that has nurtured and sustained vast numbers of humans for aeons of time?

The Nile: The life-giving force at the heart of Africa

Two great tributaries form the world’s longest river: the White Nile running north from Lake Victoria, and the Blue Nile, which begins in Ethiopia, where I began my journey from source to sea.

Think of the Nile and you invariably think of Egypt, pharaohs and pyramids. But it’s actually Ethiopia that provides almost 90 per cent of the total flow of the Nile.

With a BBC team I followed the Blue Nile from Gish Abay to the far north-west of Ethiopia, and the vast waters of beautiful Lake Tana, an inland sea covering more than 1,000 square miles, also considered by some to be the source of the Blue Nile.

Fishermen on the lake still use boats made from papyrus, which grows all the way along the river Nile and played a major role in all of the civilisations that grew up on its banks. A local boatbuilder called Girma let me paddle around in one of his new creations, and although papyrus boats are as stable as a bowl of jelly, to my amazement I managed to avoid a watery dip.

Across the lake I stopped at the 700-year-old monastery of Ura Kidane Mehret, one of dozens in the area. Inside, vivid wall paintings tell the story of Ethiopia’s spectacular religious heritage. According to legend a Lake Tana monastery was also the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. Many Ethiopians believe it’s still in the country.

Heading north into Sudan, I saw the meeting point of the two Niles, the extraordinary spectacle of Khartoum’s ”whirling dervishes’’, and took a long drive into the desert to a region once home to the ancient Nile civilisation now known as Nubia.

Nubia developed along the river 5,000 years ago, and stretched from northern Sudan into southern Egypt. It is still little-known, but there are more pyramids in Sudan than in Egypt, and at Nuri there is a royal cemetery containing pyramids for 20 kings and 54 queens of the Nubian kingdom known as Kush.

Climbing the ruined side of the pyramid belonging to Taharqa, the greatest of all Kushite pharaohs – who ruled not only Sudan but the whole of Egypt as well – was a breathtaking experience.

Standing on top of Jebel Barkal, a lone 90m-high outcrop once considered the holiest site in Nubia partly because of its proximity to the Nile, I could see clearly why so many people worship our sacred rivers. Around me there was desert. Beyond the river, there was desert. But along the riverbanks, there was life.

Religions often developed out of a desire to explain and understand the forces of nature and creation. At Nuri there could not have been a clearer representation of the powerful gift of a river.

Source

Dam Rising in Ethiopia Stirs Hope and Tension

grand-ethiopian-renaissance-damThere is a remote stretch of land in Ethiopia’s forested northwest where the dust never settles. All week, day and night, thousands of workers pulverize rocks and lay concrete along a major tributary of the Nile River. It is the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the continent’s biggest hydropower plant and one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever in Africa.

Ethiopia is a poor country, often known best for its past famines, but officials say the dam will be paid for without foreign assistance — a point of national pride. Computer-generated images of the finished structure are framed in government offices, splashed across city billboards and broadcast in repeated specials on the state-owned television channel.

We lean on the generousness of the rest of the world,” said Zadig Abrha, deputy director of the dam’s public mobilization office. “So there is a conviction on the part of the public to change this, to regain our lost greatness, to divorce ourselves from the status quo of poverty. And the first thing that we need to do is make use of our natural resources, like water.”

Ethiopia, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, has poured its resources into a slew of megaprojects in recent years, including dams, factories, roads and railways across the country.

Continue reading…

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Egypt, Ethiopia Headed For War Over Water

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on April 1, 2013

To illustrate the Nile’s importance, we should remember that Egypt is the largest desert oasis in the world. Life in Egypt is concentrated on the river banks where 90 million people live. In short, any Egyptian government should have one eye on the Horn of Africa — on Ethiopia, where the source of the Nile lies — and another eye on the Sinai Peninsula and the Levant, and the balance of power there. History has shown that most of Egypt’s invaders entered through that door.

Last week, the Lebanese website “As-Safir” expressed some interesting thoughts on questions related to the NILE issue. The writing begins with a prophetic remark about a possible war between Ethiopia and – after highlighting the importance of the river Nile for Egypt, the writer went on to outline, that, unlike in the past, the current geopolitical framework strengthens Ethiopia’s position, and gave six key indicators, and a recommendation for it:

First, the disintegration of Somalia, Ethiopia’s traditional rival with which it fought a tough war over the Ogaden region, removed the geopolitical balance facing Ethiopia’s political ambitions in the region. Ethiopia exploited Somalia’s disintegration to strengthen its regional presence in the Horn of Africa. For years, Ethiopia has been “fighting terrorism” emerging from Somalia. Ethiopia has been doing that under an American umbrella from 2006 to 2009 and then again since 2011 until now.

The second indicator is represented by the partition of Sudan into two states: Sudan and South Sudan. That development has weakened Sudan (and thus Egypt) in the Horn of Africa and allowed Ethiopia to participate, since 2012, in the UN peacekeeping forces in the Abyei region, which is disputed between Sudan and South Sudan.

The third indicator is the following: the weakening of Sudan has shifted the balance of power in Ethiopia’s favor. The crisis in Darfur and the international isolation of the Sudanese president (an international arrest warrant was issued against him by the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2009) has significantly limited Khartoum’s ability to maneuver in the Nile conflict.

The fourth indicator is the improved relationship between Ethiopia and the West in general, and between Ethiopia and the US in particular, after Addis Ababa emerged as a reliable partner in the Horn of Africa. Every year, Ethiopia gets $4 billion in military, development and food assistance. But the matter is not limited to direct aid. The West has started looking at Ethiopia differently in regard to development projects, such as the construction of dams in Ethiopia. The West had opposed such projects for decades because they were considered a threat to regional security.

The fifth indicator is about China. China is Ethiopia’s primary trade partner and Beijing has expressed willingness to finance a dam construction in Ethiopia and offered Chinese expertise in building large dams. China wishes to have a foothold in the region. There is oil in South Sudan and the Congo has mineral resources.

The sixth indicator is the weakening of Egypt’s political weight in the Horn of Africa. Egypt has no role in Somalia and was not even a key party in the negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan. Egypt’s preoccupation with internal matters is weakening its ability to confront regional and international players, such as China. Even though Egypt is the biggest market for Chinese goods among the 11 basin countries, China has favored other considerations over Egyptian priorities and Egypt’s rights in the Nile waters. So much so that China has offered its technological expertise in constructing dams, which is a complete disregard to Egyptian rights. What will Egypt do about all that? Only God knows.

In the coming years, Egypt and Ethiopia may be forced to fight a “water war” because Ethiopia’s ambitions contradict Egypt’s historical and legal rights in the Nile waters. Ethiopia can only be deterred by the regional and international balance of powers, which in recent years has favored Ethiopia.

A recommendation

In the coming years, Egypt and Ethiopia may be forced to fight a “water war” because Ethiopia’s ambitions contradict Egypt’s historical and legal rights in river waters. Ethiopia can only be deterred by the regional and international balance of powers, which in recent years has favored Ethiopia.

The government of Hisham Qandil (an irrigation expert, not a diplomat, legal expert or strategist) seems unable to manage such a complex issue with legal, political, economic, military and international aspects. His government is unable to solve everyday problems that are less complex, such as security, traffic, and fuel and food supplies. This portends dire consequences for Egypt.

What is needed is a way to manage the crisis and use Egyptian soft power toward Ethiopia, especially the Coptic Orthodox Church, which is the Ethiopian Church’s mother church. It is necessary to form a fixed Egyptian team to manage this highly sensitive issue. The team should go beyond party affiliation and include leading Egyptian Nile specialists. Ideological or religious affiliation should not be a factor in choosing that Egyptian crisis team. What is important should be the capabilities and competencies of the team members, who will come from the “clay” of the country, not from a particular group, party or political current. Clay, to those who don’t know, is what Egyptians call their country’s soil, which is a fertile soil resulting from the mixing with the Nile water.

Will Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi realize the seriousness of the situation and deal with that issue as a major national matter and quickly implement the required policies and procedures, or will he hesitate, as usual, and go down in history as someone who squandered the historic rights of Egypt and its future generations?

What is missing in the article is:

  • Egypt’s old-fashioned way (ignore the woman if you want to get her) to make its lifeline, top national security priority of its government less publicized, while conducting secretive operations to affect the development and stability of Ethiopia will not work this time. If I ware an Egyptian leader, I would have made official visits every other month to Addis Abeba, to beg Ethiopia to drink shared waters, or they will remain sited in Cairo drinking their empty pride. During the tragic years of famine and sufferings in Ethiopia, Egyptians, even the richest ones, were nowhere to show a single gesture of compassion and solidarity towards the starving children of Ethiopia. Mind you, these people are drinking and eating Ethiopian water and soil. Well, they will be begging soon!

  • Egypt already has to import 60% of its grain to feed its current population of 90. By 2050, its population is expected to increase to 115 million, greatly increasing its demand for already scarce water

Indeed, Egypt’s options are to

  • go to war with Ethiopia to obtain more water

  • cut population growth

  • improve irrigation efficiency

  • dismantle the Aswan High Dam, as 20% of the water is lost to evaporation

  • buy water from Ethiopia

  • import more grain to reduce the need for irrigation water

  • work out honest water-sharing agreements with Ethiopia and other Nile riparian countries

  • suffer the harsh economic and human consequences of extreme hydrologic poverty

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