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HomeOpinionCairo and Khartoum caught in the winds of the Ethiopian dam ,...

Cairo and Khartoum caught in the winds of the Ethiopian dam , By Yasser Al-Hussain

Facts and figures

85 per cent of the Nile’s water supply comes from the Blue Nile over a four-month period each year. The issue lies with the fact that most of the water supply does not come from Lake Tana in Ethiopia, which constitutes only seven per cent of the overall water supply collected from 40 tributaries.

Lake Tana is located approximately 1,890 metres above sea level in the Ethiopian plateau, giving it the advantage of generating electricity. The question of generating electricity affects the Nile more so in terms of regression as opposed to water supply. In fact, Sudan currently buys 100 megawatts of electricity from Ethiopia and is looking to buy more as more than 70 per cent of electricity in Sudan is generated through water supplies. Overall electricity production in Ethiopia exceeds 30,000 megawatts.

The overall decline in the Nile’s water supply greatly affects the amount of silt that is found in the water and Ethiopia’s overall control of water from the Blue Nile is limited because of this. One must keep in mind that the Renaissance Dam’s water capacity is a mere 74 billion cubic metres when compared to the Aswan dam’s 162 billion metres cubed. This means that approximately 14 billion cubic meters of water from the Renaissance Dam are customised to accommodate quantities of silt.

The depth of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia is approximately 1,400 metres, which means there is large potential to store water in Ethiopian not for agricultural irrigation purposes but for generating electricity because the plane is located in an area that experiences a lot of rainfall. Yet, the decline of the plateau makes it impossible to accommodate agricultural projects that are vast enough to accommodate the large amounts of water stored. It is expected that Ethiopia will consume a mere 1.5 billion metres cubed from the Blue Nile within 25 years and approximately 3.1 billion metres cubed in a hundred years.

Egypt initiated storing water supplies outside of its borders in Uganda and in Sudan in an area south of Khartoum. The Egyptian minister of irrigation recently announced Egypt’s intention to build a new dam in South Sudan for storage purposes. He also expressed Egypt’s intention to undergo a series of hydrological and hydraulic studies as well as the creation of survey maps of the lake and dam site. This was made possible thanks to geological, environmental and structural research, all of which Egypt intends to present at a workshop dedicated to their overall research on this matter.

Egypt has recently announced its initiative to plant more than 2.2 million acres of rice, which shows that the majority of Egypt’s projects focus on transferring the Nile’s waters outside the range of the Nile Basin (to Sinai). All of this affects the ecological balance in that it does not allocate enough drinking water but mostly focuses the water supply on agricultural projects that greatly affect the amount of water that is being exploited (by Egypt).

More than 123 billion metres cubed of water are stored in the High Dam, in Aswan, which far exceeds Egypt’s share. Yet, the truth of the matter is that about 10.5 billion cubed metres of water are wasted at the High Dam and the Renaissance Dam is the only facility capable of storing water right now.

It is important to note that the Renaissance Dam would help prevent flooding in Sudan, particularly in Khartoum’s flat plane. The Renaissance Dam can help control the amount of water flow that occurs throughout the autumn. Moreover, when Sudan signed the Nile Water agreement on November 8, 1959, the goal behind it was to control the flow of the Nile in a way that would be most beneficial. This gave Egypt the opportunity to build the High Dam in Aswan, which later resulted in the creation of an artificial lake that would extend 600 kilometres passed the Sudanese borders. Its waters flooded Wadi Halfa and other neighbouring villages. Eventually, water levels dropped leaving about 140,000 acres of land in Sudan suitable for agriculture due to the high deposits of silt on them. [please continue on page 3]



  1. Egypt is in need of convincing of the need to settle this dispute peacefully,
    despite America just re-releasing the money they’d held back from Egypt, they are still desperately seeking finance from China to kick start their economy and bring the country forward.
    Egypt must be made aware that war with Ethiopia threatens China’s investment in Ethiopia and investments made with other Nile basin countries.
    China needs to be brought in as an honest broker and way of sobering Egypt up in it’s talk of war.
    Meanwhile Khartoum plans to pipe Nile water to Saudi Arabia in exchange for oil, how come Egypt has had nothing to say on this matter ?


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