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Posts Tagged ‘Water Wars’

Egypt Should Pay For The Water

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on November 24, 2010

Without some kind of negotiated agreement on how to share the waters, the risk is growing that conflicts will occur and those conflicts will be violent.”

Talking about war

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told Reuters on Tuesday that Egypt could not win a war with Ethiopia over the River Nile and that Cairo was supporting rebel groups in an attempt to destabilize Ethiopia.

Well, the most valuable commodity in the world today, and likely to remain so for much of this century, is not oil, not natural gas, not even some type of renewable energy. It’s water—clean, safe, fresh water.

When you want to spot emerging trends, always follow the money. Today, many of the world’s leading investors and most successful companies are making big bets on water. Do a little research, and it’s easy to see why. There simply isn’t enough freshwater to go around, and the situation is expected to get worse before it gets better.

According to current studies, the worldwide scarcity of usable water worldwide already has made water more valuable than oil.

In the Unites States, in a state where water has become an increasingly scarce commodity, a growing number of farmers are betting they can make more money selling their water supplies to thirsty cities and farms than by growing crops.

In the past, Ethiopia has never put anything in place to manage her immense water resources, not to mention regulated river systems.

Predictions of “water wars” are commonplace, and yet they hardly ever happen: It’s almost always cheaper to cut a deal and share the water. But the Nile basin contains 400 million inhabitants, and Egypt and Sudan, with only 120 million people, are using almost all of its water.

After he signed the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1979, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat said: “The only matter that could take Egypt to war again is water.”

Well, the world kept turning, and now a potential war over water is creeping onto Egypt’s agenda.

Egypt is the economic and cultural superpower of the Arab world: Its 78 million people account for almost a third of the world’s Arabic-speaking population. But 99 percent of it is open desert, and if it were not for the Nile river running through that desert, Egypt’s population would not be any bigger than Libya’s (5 million). So Cairo takes a dim view of anything that might diminish the flow of that river. For thousands of years Egypt has arrogantly defended its right to use the Nile’s waters as it pleases.

Now, amid warnings of conflict and crop failure, the balance of power is starting to change as other countries like Ethiopia make new claims on the water.

If nations become rich and influential by selling their natural resources like Oil and Gas, countries like Ethiopia should also begin charging those ungrateful Egypt and Sudan for using the waters of the river Nile. Ethiopia has authority and moral legitimacy to charge a higher fee for its rivers then oil and gas.

There’s no easy way out of this impasse. But one possible alternative option would be for Ethiopia to act as Egypt’s “water banker.”

Lake Nasser, the 340-mile-long reservoir behind the Aswan High Dam, holds a whopping 157 billion cubic meters of water. But an estimated 10 billion cubic meters–nine percent of the water that reaches Lake Nasser each year–never makes it to a faucet or an irrigation ditch; it evaporates into the cloudless desert skies of southern Egypt. That’s enough drinking water for 20 million Egyptians–a quarter of the population.

Evaporation isn’t much of a problem in equatorial Africa, where the White Nile begins, and there’s a lot of fertile land as well.

Egypt should invest some of its water there, rather than lose it to evaporation in the Sahara.

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