Egypt thirsty as Nile water levels alarming low

August 2, 2019

The Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation has announced the decline of the Nile water level by about 5 billion m3 compared to last year. The announcement has sparked concern among Egyptians activists who launched a hashtag on Twitter #مصر_بتعطش (Egypt is going thirsty).

The Nile River Revenues Regulation Committee of the Ministry of Irrigation confirmed a decrease in the Nile water level by 10 per cent of Egypt’s share, which is estimated annually at 55 billion m3. The Egyptian government attributed the decline in the Nile water level to the dry season that has hit Nile sources in Ethiopia.

On the other hand, irrigation experts have confirmed that the main reason is that Ethiopia is filling the lake of the Grand Renaissance Dam (al-Nahda Dam). Experts said that the decline announced by the Egyptian government is the largest over the past few years, and will have negative effects on agricultural crops and irrigation associated with the Nile water. Experts warned of the collapse of one-third of the agriculture on delta lands and a food shortage in the coming years.

Egypt’s more than 100 million people depend on the Nile as the main source of water in the country. Observers believe that there is great concern about the repercussions of the new Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, fearing that it will reduce Egypt’s share of the Nile, the main water source in the country.

Addis Ababa says that the dam will bring many benefits to its people, especially in the production of electricity, and will not hurt the downstream countries Sudan and Egypt. Egypt and Ethiopia, as well as Sudan, have entered negotiations on the construction of the dam, but there are disagreements over the storage capacity of the dam and the number of years it will take to fill the dam’s reservoirs with water. Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia agreed that the dam would be filled over three years with 45 billion m3 in 2019. Egypt and Sudan would have a combined share of 15 billion m3 annually for three years.

The announcement by the Ministry of Irrigation of the decline in Egyptian water revenues has caused widespread discontent among Egyptians, who were disturbed by the scenes of water receding from some canals and banks and the emergence of drought in land used for agriculture.

Egyptians believe that the regime’s water policy in dealing with the al-Nahdha Dam crisis is the main reason for this drought. They are trading on social networking sites a video showing Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi alongside Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on June 11, 2018. In the video al-Sisi tells the Prime Minister of Ethiopia to repeat his words: “I swear that the Dam will not do any harm to the water level in Egypt.” Angry Egyptians pointed out that Ethiopia has refused to sign any written commitment to this and just verbally promised it. Activists described that as “stupidity and political ignorance” that does not resolve the water crisis.

Egyptians accuse the regime of neglecting Egypt’s rights over the Nile’s water, and remember angrily that the Egyptian regime already surrendered the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia three years ago.

In April 2011 Ethiopia launched a project to build the al-Nahdha Dam on the Blue Nile near the Ethiopian-Sudanese border. This move was then considered by Cairo and Khartoum as an end to the Nile Water Sharing Agreement signed in 1929, which defines the shares of Egypt and Sudan from the waters of the river, but Ethiopia said that the convention does not reflect the rights of the Ethiopian people. The Ethiopian government says it will not harm Egypt’s rights over the Nile, but at the same time refuses to pledge that in writing.