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Egypt continues to mislead the international community about the GERD

This paper examines Egypt’s continuous misleading and falsified propaganda aided by its backers, the Arab League against Ethiopia’s right to use its natural resources. It should be clear to the wider international community that the filling and future operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GRED) is not the main issue for Egypt.

 It is not a secret that throughout the history, Egypt has been an obstacle preventing the development in the African Nations in general and the Ethiopian Nation in particular.  Egypt has always followed a destabilising policy against Ethiopia by creating internal division and financing separatist elements to fragment the country and prevent Ethiopia from developing and utilising its natural resources.

Now, as part of Egypt’s misinformation campaign, the Cairo University professors have formed a group called “Group of Nile Basin” (GNB).

The main purpose and activities of GNB is issuing unfounded statements and publishing misleading papers in the national and international journals. According to our investigation, these publications are not supported/informed by real data on the ground. The group’s main aim is to underestimate the huge benefits of the GERD for Egypt and the wider Nile basin countries.

Members of the GNB group include:

Mohamed N. E. Allam – Ex. Minister of Water Resources & Irrigation

  1. Mohamed S Bazarah – Prof. of Irrigation and Drainage
  2. Alaa Al-Zawahry – Prof. of Hydraulic and expert of dams and member of the National Committee of GERD.
  3. Mohamed S. El-Manadily – Prof. of Hydraulics – Chairman of Department of Irrigation and Hydraulics, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University.
  4. Nader Nour Eddin – Prof. of Water Supplies and Lands, Faculty of Agriculture, Cairo University
  5. Ahmad E. Hasan – Prof. of Hydrology, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University.
  6. KhaledH Hamid, Prof. of Water Supplies, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University – Member of the Trio Committee
  7. Ashraf M Ghanim, Prof. of Hydraulics, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University.
  8. Mostafa A Gheith, Pro.f of Irrigation & Drainage, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University.
  9. Mohamed H Algamal, Prof. of Hydraulics, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University.
  10. Hesham B Mohamed, Prof. of Water Supplies, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University.  Member of the National Committee to study GERD.
  11. Mohame E Abol Hagag, Prof. of Hydraulics, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University

Another misleading assessment used by Egypt to legitimise its uncontested use of the Nile water is by making false claims about the availability of sufficient rainfall in Ethiopia. The reality is that due to its mountainous topography, Ethiopia’s natural water retention capacity is less than 20 percent which means that 80 percent of the rainfall will runoff out of Ethiopia to the downstream countries mainly to Egypt. Ethiopia is a water highway and most of the rainfall flows out of the country.

Although Ethiopia has the right to control and divert its water resources for agricultural developments, the main purposes of the GERD construction is for power generation and will not reduce the rainfall- runoff to the downstream countries.

Ethiopia has always been supporting the equitable use of the Nile Water and has always maintained and is willing to keep the Nile as a uniting force for the people of the Nile basin nations and not a source of dispute. Ethiopia is also willing to maintain the Nile basin to remain a place for peace and not a battlefield. However, Egypt is refusing to recognise Ethiopia’s right to use its water resources for power generation without harming the downstream countries.

The flawed in Egypt’s claim of historical Nile water right and its legality

The 1959 so called “Colonial Agreement” which allocate zero water usage for Ethiopia and upstream states of the Nile was illegal and never signed by Ethiopia. Now most upstream countries have signed a Cooperative Framework Agreement, but Egypt and Sudan have refused to sign the binding document. 

Based on the current agreement by the Nile basin countries, there is no mutually accepted water treaty between upstream and downstream countries.

Even though there is a flourishing irrigation projects and dam constructions in the Sudan and Egypt, Egypt argues that the Sub-Saharan African countries do not deserve the same rights to drink from the water, which find it’s root the ideology racism and colonialism.  In fact, this race-based solidarity between by Arab countries appears the perpetuation of the same racial ideology.

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Nile River Basin dams in Sudan and Egypt: Oxford University

 

That is why Egypt should be challenged by all upstream riparian countries and the issue should not be left for Ethiopia alone. Until Egypt abandons its 80 percent ownership mentality and 20 percent by Sudan the other 8 upstream countries, including Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan must push for comprehensive agreement based on CFA. If not Egypt, will continue to impose it’s colonial agenda. 

If unchecked Egypt can block Sudan’s plan to build three dams (Shereik, Kajbar, and Dal dams) in northern Sudan with a total hydropower capacity exceeding 2000MW). Uganda is also planning to do the same and they should support and rally behind Ethiopia in its current negotiation with Egypt.

Wastage of the Nile Water by Egypt

While denying the Ethiopian people the right to use their natural water resources, Egypt wastes billions of cubic meters of the Nile water annually due to its ill manged, outdated and unsustainable irrigation systems mainly by diverting of the Nile water by an open surface water canals through evaporation. One of the longest canal prone to evaporation is the Toshika canal. 

Against the advice of international water experts, in 1997, the Egyptian government approved the Toshka irrigation open surface canal project. This project entails building a series of canals and a pumping station to carry water from Lake Nasser to irrigate portions of the Western Desert of Egypt. Egypt is developing a desert to be self-sufficient in its food supply while denying Ethiopia and other upstream riparian countries the right to drink from the river or use it for energy production. 

The irrigation project or Toshka irrigation canal, which 310 km from lake Nasir, as it is located in a very arid and sandy desert to lose more than  3 billion cubic meters per year as evaporation and 1 billion meters cubic water loss from the lake Nasir itself. . 

Water Intensive Agriculture Production of Egypt. 

While Ethiopia is facing drought and starvation Egyptian agriculture products are export-oriented to feed the world.  Rice, Sugarcanes, Watermelon and other similar water-consuming crops are main agricultural products produced in Egypt.  Good to know Egypt is a desert and not swamp but it is a major rice exporter in Africa. Egypt’s rice cultivation loses about 1.8 billion metres of water in evaporation, transpiration, and irrigation every year. An average of 1,400 litres of water are used in the production of every kilogram of rice, which is equivalent to 70 Ethiopians daily water consumption per capita.  

 

These types of crops are not suited for the arid environment and require a huge quantity of water to sustain it. It will be much cheaper for Egypt to import these types of crops instead of producing them at home. 

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Schematic diagram of major control dams and barrages on the Nile River in Egypt
Reference: Egypt MWRI, 2005

 

Egypt should also reduce water evaporation from irrigation canals in the desert which is wasting billions of cubic meters of water every year. Egypt should also attempt to find an alternative water source instead of taking the Nile water for granted. This includes covering the open surface water canal systems and adopting drip irrigation as well as developing desert compatible crops.

Rather than helping Egypt to produce a kg of rice at expense of 70 Ethiopians consumption the Arab League need to help Egypt help to cover irrigation canals and outdated flood irrigation agriculture for thirsty crops in a desert climate. 

Water consumption in the Egyptian tourism Industry 

In Egypt, tourism is a water-consuming activity because of the need to irrigate golf courses, fill swimming pools, fountains and artificial lakes, supply hotels and so on. The tourism sector is one of the main water consumer in Egypt. While Ethiopia is dying of starvation and draught, Egyptians are creating golf courses in the desert.

Egypt vs. Ethiopia per capita energy and water consumption 

While Ethiopia’s water consumption per capita is 279l Egypt enjoys 2020l. While the Egyptian population enjoys a continuous supply of energy, potable drinking water, job security due to its industrial development and food security, nearly 60 percent of Ethiopians live in darkness, do not have portable water supply, depend on food aid, 40 percent of its youth are unemployed and Ethiopia unable to develop its industries due to lack of energy. 

Based on publicly available data, approximately 97 percent of the urban population and 70 percent of the rural population of Egypt receive a piped water supply.  Contrary to Egypt, Ethiopia has long suffered from severe power shortages as only 40 percent of its 115 million-people population have access to electricity. Also, only 42 percent of the population has access to clean water, only 11 percent of which can get sanitation services. The construction of the dam will lift Ethiopia from this vicious circle energy poverty.  

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Benefits of the GERD dam to the downstream courtiers

 The construction of the GERD on the Blue Nile is more beneficial to Sudan and Egypt than Ethiopia. The followings are the main benefits: 

  1. Constant flow of water throughout the year

Due to the construction of the GERD, Sudan and Egypt will have a constant and regulated flow of water throughout the year.  This will increase crop production in the 9 months dry season which is impossible without GRED. 

  1. Timely drought and flood prediction capability 

In addition of the recurrence flooding and loss of crops, damage to the wider community of Sudan and Egypt, there is also a waste of water every winter released by Egypt downstream of the High Aswan Dam (HAD) in order to free up space for flood water and sediment flushing. The construction of the Renaissance Dam will reduce if not eliminate the flood risk to the downstream community and will also assist Sudan and Egypt to make a timely prediction of drought an important factor to set up drought mitigation policies. 

  1. Decrease sedimentation load to the downstream reservoirs 

Sudan and Egypt have been building many dams along the Nile River without consenting the upstream riparian countries including Ethiopia. Siltation of these reservoirs has been a major issue for storage and structural integrity of these dams.

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Photo: (Arab Weekly Sunday 11/03/2018

 

According to publicly available studies, the Sennar Dam which was constructed on the Blue Nile (Sudan) has lost 71 percent of its original water storage capacity due to the sediment deposition over a span of 61 years. The Roseires Dam in Sudan has lost 36 percent of its original water storage capacity in a span of 28 years.

The High Aswan Dam Reservoir (Lake Nasir) is the second-largest man-made reservoir in the world. The reservoir extends from the southern part of Egypt to the northern part of Sudan. The Nasir Lake has a total length of about 500 km (350 km inside Egypt and 150 km inside Sudan).  More than 124 million tons of sediment per year is deposited in the Lake Nasir reservoir which has reduced the reservoir volume tremendously.

 

The construction of the GERD will substantially reduce the sedimentation problem to Sudan and Egypt reservoirs. This will directly benefit Egypt and Sudan with additional agricultural production, energy generation, river navigation and water supply. 

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Source: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.USE.ELEC.KH.PC
 
  1. Energy cost saving from pumping of water in summer 

In order to transfer water into the Egyptian desert, the Mubarak Pumping Station in Toshka was inaugurated in March 2005 with a discharge of 300m3/sec (25.92 million cubic meters per day). It pumps water from Lake Nasser to be transported by way of a canal through the valley, with the idea of transforming about 231,000 ha of the desert into agricultural land. 

 Egypt is turning a desert into an agricultural oasis while denying Ethiopia the right to produce energy for its rapidly growing population.  The pumping cost for Egypt is too high in summer. The construction of the GERD will maintain constant water level throughout the year substantially reducing cost of pumping for the Egyptian government.

  1. Regional economic integration (Secured electricity supply)

Sudan, Egypt and other Nile basin countries will receive electricity supply from Ethiopia without contributing to wards the cost of construction of the GERD which is a very cheap option. It will also be a catalyst for regional power integration.

Filling of GERD and future reservoir operations will not affect the downstream flow 

Sudan and Egypt have no right to request Ethiopia to sign a legal document regarding the quantity of flows downstream to be released during the initial filling and future operation of the dam. Neither the international transboundary nor the African Convention on the sharing of natural resources require Ethiopia to get Sudan and Egypt’s blessing or agreement to fill and operate the dam inside its national boundary.

 According to various studies conducted on the Nile Valley, the Nile River flow  is among the highest in the world from about 50-60 million cubic meters per day in April-May, to over 700 million in June - September. Sudan and Egypt obtain a large and destructively excessive flow in the rainy season, the excess of which will without a problem can fill the GERD Reservoir fairly quickly. Rate of evaporation in the GERD reservoir is also negligible compared to that of the existing dams in the Sudan and Egypt.

Several Computer Simulation Scenarios were also developed by water resource management practitioners to test transboundary policy arrangements that range from no international cooperation during filling, to various agreed annual release volumes from the GERD throughout the filling period.  Adaptation of the operation of Sudanese and Egyptian reservoirs to the presence of GERD were also simulated to demonstrate their need for well-planned management policies.

The results of the computer simulation indicate that Sudan and Egypt can largely manage their risk to major water supply diversions by changing the way they operate their reservoirs. The High Aswan Dam Reservoir (Lake Nasir) storage capacity is 162 Billion Cubic Meters (BCM) with more than 100 billion cubic metres of reserve water to be used during the draught period. 

The computer simulation result also demonstrated that Sudanese and Egyptian hydropower generation potential is likely to increase due to regulation of flows coming upstream from the GERD.

To avoid any unplanned shortages, an agreed annual release from the GERD can be complemented by both Egypt proactively reducing annual downstream releases and a cooperative basin-wide safeguard strategy to provide additional releases from the GERD in critical circumstances without a legally binding agreement.

Experts in the field also confirmed that as long as Ethiopia ensures a decent minimum flow of water downstream—say, 25 billion cubic meters a year, while Egypt promises to take drought mitigation measures of its own, both sides can win and amicably settle their differences.

The operation rules of the High Aswan Dam (HAD) is also based on illegal Nile Water Agreement of 1959. Instead of asking Ethiopia to provide Egypt with the dam filling and operation rule of the GERD, Egypt should provide Ethiopia with its HAD operation rules and discuss how to revise this outdated HAD operation rules based on the new reality on the ground which is the existence of GERD. 

Based on the above facts, there is no reduction of water to the downstream nations due to the initial filling and future operation of the Ethiopian dam.  

Countering Egypt’s misinformation campaign 

Ethiopian academicians and water resource management experts both at home and abroad should coordinate and critically review papers produced by the Group of Nile Basin. By exposing their flawed publications, we can inform the international community Egypt’s unjustified obstruction of Ethiopia’s right to develop its natural water resources.   If Ethiopia fill the dam, it will be keeping 10.5 bcm water per annum while releasing 63 bcm water to Egypt, which is 82 percent of the total water from all rivers including, Abay, Tekeze, Baro-Akobo-Sobor rivers.   Egypt has more than to 300 bcm of water, such as Aswan 174 bcm, Nassir 131 bcm and other reservoirs and dams, which is equivalent to 6 years annual flow of Nile.

While that is the truth Egyptian academician and water experts abuse of scientific journals by publishing unfounded doomsday scenario because Ethiopia want to keep 10.5 bcm water which is 0.35 percent of Egypt’s reservoir for their narrow national interest against the norms of academia and professional ethics. 

Target for negotiation

It was a mistake for Ethiopia at the initial stages of the negotiation with Sudan and Egypt to declare that the GERD can only be used for power generation purposes. Sudan and Egypt are using their dams for multipurpose including agriculture, power, water supply and navigation. Ethiopia must have unrestricted right to use the water.

Ethiopia should also get a legal agreement with Sudan and Egypt regarding the watershed management and environmental protection of the Nile basin including cost sharing agreement as Sudan and Egypt are the main beneficiaries of the Nile water. The establishment of rainfall observation radars and flow gauging stations are important to monitor climate change effects and build our prediction capability including flood and drought predictions. This should be a collaborative approach by all Nile basing countries.  

Sedimentation due to environmental degradation of the upstream catchments will be a major threat to the full operation of dams in the Nile basin. A valley-wide watershed management system supported by hydrological and hydraulic models are required to assist with this effort.  Ethiopia should negotiate with Sudan and Egypt to contribute towards our watershed management efforts including financing.

In addition to this, the current expansion of the water Hyacinth (Inboch) weed in Lake Tana should also be a major concern to the three Nile basin countries. The water Hyacinth weed is covering large area of Lake Tana threatening its existence and destroying the biodiversity of the Nile basin. Unless the water Hyacinth weed is tackled now it will affect the future storage of all the dams located in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

Ethiopian’s economy is mainly dependent on the agricultural output which is directly dependent on the adequate and continuous availability of water. More than 90 percent of the country's source of energy is also hydropower. In spite of the above realities, various Ethiopian governments had not given enough attention to the water sector research and development institutions. This requires urgent action by the FDRE government without being distracted by the current political wrangling with Egypt.

The existing water technology institutions in Ethiopia should be properly financed and equipped with the latest available water technology and skilled manpower. Ethiopia should play a leading role in water technology in the region and has the opportunity to do so if there is a will by the FDRE government and regional authorities. The Nile Valley also deserves to have its own research and development centre. This is very critical for the future safety and sustainability of the GRED.  

Water and Energy is the most two important factors that would decide on the health and prosperity of the Ethiopian Population. If those two essential parameters could be provided in adequate quantities and managed in an efficient way, then the population of Ethiopia is going to flourish.

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Ed.’s Note:  Manaye Ewunetu (PhD) is Managing Partner of ME Consulting Engineers Ltd. UK. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter. The writer can be reached at [email protected]

Contributed by Manaye Ewunetu