Egypt has announced a final effort to re-negotiate the terms of the Cooperative Framework Agreement which apportions water from the Nile River to various basin countries. Since 1929, Egypt has held a near-monopoly on the water, but last year Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda signed the Entebbe Treaty that neither Egypt nor Sudan recognize in order to arrest that monopoly.
At the beginning of April 2011, Ethiopia started construction on the Grand Millennium Dam near Sudan. Egypt asked permission to conduct an assessment to gauge the impact of the 6,000MW hydropower plant on its own water supply, but Ethiopia refused. Almasry Alyoum reports that concerned parties will try one more time to find a fair solution.
Under the terms of the Entebbe Treaty, Nile basin countries will no longer have to ask Egypt’s permission to undertake water diversion projects on the mighty river. Emboldened by this, Ethiopia – which contributes more water to the river’s annual flow than any other country – began construction on a massive dam project.
Egypt sent a 40-person delegation to Uganda in order to persuade President Museveni to oppose the dam project currently underway in Ethiopia’s Benshangul Gumuz state. Egypt’s 85 million inhabitants rely almost exclusively on the Nile for their water needs, while Ethiopia claims that electricity produced by the hydropower project can benefit everyone.
In a last ditch effort to maintain some of its rights to the Nile waters, Egypt’s Water Resources Minister Hussein al-Atfy announced an initiative by the African countries to renegotiate the Nile Basin Framework Agreement.
According to Almasry Alyoum, he said the initiative aims at allowing all people of Nile Basin countries to benefit from the water, and added that international arbitration would be Cairo’s last resort in dealing with this issue.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, in a meeting with the Ethiopian ambassador, expressed a willingness to improve relations between the two countries.