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Friday, April 12, 2024

Renaissance Dam increases hostilities between Egypt and Ethiopia

Water politics threaten nuclear stability in South Asia, however, the threat does not stop here. The mighty Nile has also been the source of extreme tensions between Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt after the construction of the Renaissance Dam by Ethiopia.

The River Nile is the longest river in the world, having a length of around 4,132 miles (6,650 kilometers). It is also called the father of “African rivers”.

It rises south of the Equator and flows northward through the tropical climate of North-Eastern Africa and into the Mediterranean Sea. One of two main tributaries of Nile River is the “Blue Nile” which starts from lake Tana, Ethiopia, and converges into the second one, “White Nile” at Khartoum, Sudan, and flows into Egypt.

Interestingly, Nile is the only river that runs North to South. The life of around 280 million people from 11 countries is directly connected with the Nile Basin.

Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia fight over the Nile

The triangular conflict between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia started; when Ethiopia began construction of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile River.

This USD 4.8 billion project is expected to produce around 6000 megawatts electricity, which is more than what Ethiopia needs for its domestic use. Initially, in 2011, the hydropower plant had the capacity of producing 5,250 MW of electricity but over the years more power generating units were inducted and now it is expected to produce around 6000 MW electricity.

Read more: Hydro-politics in South Asia: Impending omens of war – III

Overall GERD has a water storage capacity of 75 billion cubic meters. According to an academic study by Al-Jazeera Labs, even if Ethiopia fills the reservoir in 10 years this would cut Egypt water supply by 14 Percent.

Resulting in Egypt losing Nearly two million acres (about 8094 km2) or about 18% of its Egypt’s agricultural land. This is not just a dam but a serious national security issue for Egypt.

Nile: a matter of life and death for Egypt

This dam is not only going to halt Egypt water supply but is also going to have a deep impact on its Eco-system, Economy, Agriculture, and food supply. This is a serious issue for Egypt and Egyptians as for 5000 years the Egyptian civilization thrived along the Nile River.

Even today the majority of the population lives along the bank of Nile-this is also the main source of water for the country and its inhabitants. Things got more complicated for Egypt when in 2012 Sudanese President announced to support Ethiopia in building the dam. This came after a high-level meeting held between the water ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan and the Ethiopian officials pledged to export electricity to Sudan at a low cost. But over the years the stance of Sudan remained positive.

Sudanese authorities supported the construction of a dam after Ethiopia assured them of providing low-cost electricity. Apart from that, the regulation of the flow of Nile water via GRED will help Sudan in the prevention of floods eventually increasing the agricultural output.

Read more: Balochistan’s water-crisis: Tailored solutions before its too late

But no one knows how much this project is going to impact the food supply, eco-system, and economy of Sudan. Meanwhile, Post Mubarak, the Morsi regime pushed for a peaceful end to the crisis and agreed with counterparts from Sudan and Ethiopia to diplomatically resolve the dispute. Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia established a tripartite technical committee to assess the possible environmental and social impacts of the dam.


Over the years Egypt’s active and aggressive diplomatic campaign against the GERD made good progress but failed to design any vital long term solutions, which can be suitable for both the countries.

Egypt with active diplomacy wants to engage international and regional powers to build pressure on Ethiopia to limit its operations of filling the revivors. Egypt wants insurance and security of its water supply via Blue-Nile-which is one of two main tributaries.

Egypt internationalising the conflict 

Egypt approached the Arab League, Work Bank, United Nations, and even the United States seeking help to resolve the dispute.

Egypt views GRED as the most immediate and serious existential threat since the very existence of Egyptian society is in jeopardy. Egypt wants to ensure the safety of its share (55.5 billion cubic meters) in the Nile.

Moreover, it wants to ensure that dam is filled over 15-20 years- even that in specific intervals. Even though the Dam will be completed in 2023 but Ethiopia announced that it will begin filling the dam in June 2020. Ethiopia has already warned Egypt about any possible military action. But on the other hand, Egypt hasn’t ruled out the military option considering the nature of the threat.

Read more: Climate change and worsening water situation in Pakistan

But the dark clouds of war on the water are moving across the globe from South- Asia (Indo-Pak) to MENA (Ethiopia-Egypt).

This is very concerning especially in the time when the world is dealing with Covid-19. This is not the first and only case- from human rights to Climate change from climate change to Food security International Organization and institution failed to deliver.

This crisis is just another addition to gloomy forecasts about falling Neo-Liberal Global World Order. But the question remains who will win the battle for the Nile.

Talha Ahmad is a Freelance Journalist and Blogger. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.