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Upstream states challenge Egypt over Nile waters 5

CAIRO – A water-sharing treaty among five upstream Nile Basin countries – to the exclusion of Egypt and Sudan – has reignited the longstanding dispute over water distribution. Local experts, however, say the agreement will not jeopardise Egypt’s historical share of Nile water.

“Egypt has relied on the waters of the Nile for thousands of years,” Hani Raslan, head of the department for Sudan and Nile Basin countries at the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, told IPS. “No one can set a limit on Egypt’s use of the Nile, which is protected by international law.”

But Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda Tanzania and Kenya have other ideas, as evident from the new water treaty they hammered out at a meeting in Entebbe in May.

In mid-April, representatives of nine Nile Basin states – including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – had met in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh in an effort to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on the distribution of river water.

As it currently stands, division of Nile water is determined by two treaties penned in 1929 and 1959, which grant Egypt and Sudan the lion’s share. Under the terms of the two agreements Egypt has the right to use 55.5 billion cubic metres of Nile water per year, while Sudan is allotted an annual quota of 18.5 billion cubic metres.

The treaties also stipulate that no major water projects, such as dams or irrigation works, can be undertaken in upstream countries without the express permission of Egypt and Sudan.

But upstream countries have long complained that the two treaties – signed while they were under colonial occupation – fail to secure their legitimate water rights. Egypt and Sudan, however, staunchly reject any reduction of their current water allotments.

Since the late 1990s, Nile Basin states have been trying unsuccessfully to hammer out a revised framework agreement for water sharing, dubbed the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). Two recent conferences devoted to the issue failed to resolve the impasse.

In May 2009, talks held in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa broke down because Egypt’s and Sudan’s historical water quotas were not mentioned in the text of the proposed agreement. Water ministers met again last July in the Egyptian coastal city Alexandria, where Egypt and Sudan reiterated their rejection of any agreement that did not clearly establish their historical share of water.

Upstream states accuse Egypt and Sudan of attempting to maintain an unfair, colonial-era monopoly on the river. Egyptian officials and analysts, however, defend their position, pointing out that Egypt is much more dependent on the river for its water needs than its upstream neighbours.

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By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-OmraniIps Africa

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  1. more information on the size of the Nile and wish to know the terms of the new agreement

  2. and wish to know the terms of the new agreement

  3. wish to get a copy of the recent agreement on nile waters

  4. Justa Wekesa says:

    Just want to know the current stand after all these agreements and dis-agreenents

  5. Justa Wekesa says:

    Just want to know the current stand after all these agreements and dis-agreements

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