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The River Nile Past and Present: The Nile Today

What is the relationship between the Blue Nile and the White Nile? The Nile River is the longest river in the world, covering a total length of 6,695 kilometers. It flows through ten countries in northeastern Africa Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire/Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt and had two main tributaries, the White Nile and the Blue Nile. They converge at Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, to form the Nile River. The Blue Nile suffers high seasonal fluctuations and originates from water tower highlands in Ethiopia, and then flows approximately 1400km before reaching Khartoum. It provides 86 percent of the yearly Nile flow, whereas the White Nile only accounts for 14 percent of the yearly flow. The White Nile begins at Burundi, and is fed by the eternal snows of Ruwenzori Mountain in western Uganda, along with the Lake Victoria and other smaller lakes. However, it loses a considerable amount of water to a huge swamp in southern Sudan, and to evaporation as it flows into the torrid regions of Sudan.

What are the problems with the Aswan Dam and what are Egyptian officials doing about it? The Aswan High Dam lies north of the border between Egypt and Sudan. It is a rock fill dam and captures the Nile River in the worlds third largest reservoir. Lake Nasser. However, since the Aswan Dam has been built, it has constrained sediments from resettling in the Delta, which used to be replenished by annual Nile floods which deposited mud, sand and minerals. As a result, erosion has flourished. It has also prevented natural fertilisers from being carried to arable land, which results in the increased use of chemical fertilisers. Not only is the cost of importing fertiliser expensive, the runoff from the farmland pollutes the river downstream. Other problems that have occurred due to damming include a decrease in the number of fish caught, and the rising level of groundwater threaten to damage sacred and ancient monuments in Egypt. Egyptian officials have been spending US $300 million to build sea walls to protect beaches from rising sea levels. Furthermore, the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency mentioned that they would utilise several measures to deal with the impact the dam has on the coastal zone corridor, such as beach nourishment, construction of breakwaters and setting regulations to restrict development in affected areas. The Egyptian government stated that they have been working on sea erosion deduction and shore protection measures for the past 30 years, and institutional water bodies located in Egypt are working to impede some of the negative impacts of the sea level rising by 2017. They plan to improve water sanitation in both urban and

rural areas, develop wastewater management and save water by improving irrigation efficiency.

What future concerns or challenges does the River Nile pose for the water supply in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt? Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan are the three countries which rely most heavily on the River Nile to provide water for them. They are also the most important when it comes to potential political conflict or cooperation concerning Nile River issues. For these three countries, especially Egypt and Sudan, the importance of the Nile cannot be exaggerated. About 95 percent of Egyptians live in the Nile Valley and depend on the river for almost all their fresh water. In Sudan, 77 percent of their fresh water comes from outside their borders, and most of it from the Nile River. Ethiopias mountains are one of the main sources contributing to the Nile water, and 86 percent of the water that reaches the Aswan Dam in a normal year comes from Ethiopia. From 1870 to 1988, the average annual flow of the Nile at the Aswan Dam was 88 billion cubic meters. During the late 1970s through 1987, the Nile had an unusually low flow, and Lake Nasser in Egypt nearly disappeared, causing great concern. Although the average annual flow recovered to 86 billion cubic meters from 1988 to 2001, an estimated million people died during that period of lack of water and famine. NASA reported that the Nile has shown significant drying over the last 5 years, which does not bode well for the countries depending on the Nile River for a constant freshwater supply, especially as the population in these countries are predicted to rise from 150 million today to 340 million in 2050.

How do these concerns or challenges affect political relations between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt? Although water is not the only issue that binds or divides Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, it has become arguably the most important factor as the rapidly expanding population draws more and more on the water supply. As Egypt has been so dependent on the Nile throughout its history, it tends to see the Nile as its property, and that the allocation of water it negotiated with Sudan is a necessary concession despite the fact that every single drop of water reaching Egypt flows through Sudan. Egypt has a strong sense of unity which has been constructed around the River Nile, which is not true for either Sudan or Ethiopia. As international conflict expert Thomas Homer-Dixon suggested, a conflict is most probable when the downstream country is highly dependent on river water and is

militarily and economically stronger when compared to upstream countries, which is exactly the case with Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat stated in 1980: "If Ethiopia takes any action to block our right to the Nile waters, there will be no alternative for us but to use force. Tampering with the rights of a nation to water is tampering with its life and a decision to go to war on this score is indisputable in the international community." Ethiopia's foreign minister said in 1998 that "There is no earthly force that can stop Ethiopia from benefiting from the Nile." Former Egyptian Foreign Minister and UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali concluded in 2005 that the next war among the countries of the Nile Basin would not be for oil or territorial borders, but for water.

Sources of Information http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/dealing-deluge.htm (provided) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/454926.stm (provided) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/05/0531_020531_TVwatertabl e.html (provided) http://waterdiplomat.blogspot.com/2011/01/egypt-sudan-and-ethiopia-nileriver.html http://www.isocarp.net/Data/case_studies/1456.pdf ttp://ocw.innova.uned.es/ocwuniversia/ciencias/climate-change-from-scienceto-lived-experience/contenidos-1/casestudy.pdf