Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Water Wars Tensions Build over a Nile Dam in Ethiopia

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Water Wars Tensions Build over a Nile Dam in Ethiopia

Article excerpt

A major drama is building in northeast Africa, among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, as Ethiopia nears completion of work on a large new dam on the Nile River.

Part of the Nile, known as the White Nile, rises in the mountains of Burundi, far south of Egypt in Africa. The Nile eventually pours into the Mediterranean Sea in the north of Egypt. The river has served as the stem of civilizations, dating from thousands of years ago. Its waters are absolutely critical to Egypt, upon which that country's agriculture, electric power and internal transport are heavily dependent. Without its waters, more Egyptians would starve than do already.

Ethiopia has been building for years the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam at its border with Sudan. It's on what is called the Blue Nile, the river's other major tributary. The Blue Nile accounts for some 85 percent of the water flowing into the main Nile. Ethiopia is at the point of filling the huge reservoir behind the dam, already, in Egypt's eyes, putting Egypt's Nile waters at risk.

Egypt's complaint is that the Ethiopians have built the dam without, or with insufficient, consultation with it, as to its impact on Egypt. Egypt itself built the massive Aswan Dam, with financing help from the Soviet Union, completing it in 1970. The Aswan dam's impact on Egypt is very significant, in political and military as well as economic terms. Any country, including Israel and Ethiopia, that fights Egypt can put Cairo, its capital, with a population of at least 10 million, under water if it bombed and broke the Aswan dam.

Sudan, a very dry country, is happy enough with the new Ethiopian dam, which will make irrigation and thus cultivation in it much more feasible than before, attracting investment, increasing food supplies and bringing other benefits.

The United States does not have a dog in the fight, except that it has relatively decent relations with both Egypt and Ethiopia, would not like to see them descend into warfare with each other, and hopes that trouble over the dam will not generate one more war in northeast Africa. …

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