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Water security without water wealth?

GERD _ Ethiopia _ Water
GERD project (photo : SM)

“Anonymous Writer”

Water, as any other national resource, is a strategic wealth that countries possess to a different degree.  The centrality of geography that defines the fate and power of nations is manifested, among other things, in the water wealth they are endowed with. As much as essential water is for humans and other life, the wealth of nations in water determines their ability to meet the water needs of their population.  The same is true for fertile soil, forest and biodiversity, gas/oil and other critical minerals, and sea coast, all of which are critical for the wellbeing of states and their people.

Water security is a concept that is yet to be elucidated in a broadly accepted intergovernmental instrument.  Notwithstanding, the Cooperative Framework Agreement on the Nile defines water security as “the right of all states to reliable access to and use of water for health, agriculture, livelihoods, production, and environment”.  A report by UN-Water dubbed “Water Security & the Global Water Agenda” defines water security, as “The capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of and acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against waterborne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability.”

The concept of water security at a state level, can in a nutshell be understood as the ability of states to fulfill the water demands of their population.   This ability is determined by their geography, which underpins their water wealth.  A country that has no fresh surface water in its territory, has to find other sources of water to meet its water security needs.   These alternative sources could be groundwater, seawater, cloud harvesting, and water acquired from other countries based on agreed-upon arrangements.  Many countries in Asia and the Middle East fulfill their water needs using one or a combination of several of these means. 

Since the commencement of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project, Egypt has been echo-chambering, mostly based on some deliberately manufactured doom’s day scenarios, its water security, and “historic water share”. This piece will not dwell on the fictitious and fundamentally colonialist policy of “historic water share”.  

On the quest for water security, however, the bottom line is that Egypt is right in seeking to ensure its water security.  Every country should have a similar pursuit.  This being said, any country including Egypt has to take one fundamental consideration into account in this pursuit of water security.  This consideration is their water wealth.  If a country does not have fresh surface water within its sovereign territory, it cannot depend on a non-existing resource for its water security. 

As such, Egypt as a country that has no fresh surface water in its territory, should discount surface fresh water as a guarantee of its water security.  Similarly, the currently landlocked Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and South Sudan, cannot feasibly rely on seawater and desalination for their water security. This is because seawater simply does not constitute their national water wealth. In addition, Ethiopia cannot depend on groundwater for its water security, as it has no significant amount of wealth in groundwater.  

On the other hand, Egypt has ample resources in groundwater. Additionally, as a Red Sea/Mediterranean coastal state, it musters access to unlimited sea water. Like its neighbor Israel, Egypt can engage in moisture harvesting to produce water.  This way, the water security of Egypt can be ensured in a predictable and sustained manner by developing these resources.  If it stands to preserve its best interest, Egypt should cease its dependence on the fresh surface water it never had, as a guarantee to its water security.  

The Nile”, is a water resource that is an amalgamation of rivers and lakes that originate in nine African countries.  As a matter of fact, there is no river by the Name “Nile” in any country outside of Egypt and Sudan. The name “Nile” pops up in Khartoum tracing its origin, as legend has it from a Hebrew word “dark blue” or an ancient Arabic word that translates to “river”.  Therefore, the Nine African countries legitimately count their rivers and lakes as part of their national water wealth.  These sources happen to flow crossing their boundary propelled mainly by the under-use of the water resource.  However, their current and future generation has a right, and in fact, has no option but to utilize this resource as they deem fit to ensure their water security.  In this inevitable and fast-approaching scenario, Egypt would be mistaken to latch on its water security in reference to a water source it never had.   Egypt must recognize that the waters of the nine African countries reach it, enveloped as the “Nile”, because of the accident of underdevelopment, hence minimal reliance of these countries on their water wealth.  

In an age where these nine countries become a combined population of 400 million people, Egypt’s claims will only be a disappointing nostalgia at best and a blatantly exploitative ambition at worst.  With its current policy orientation in place, Egypt will have a rude awakening to reality without fresh water and without friends. Saber-rattling against fellow African countries for using their own water wealth is an exercise in futility and defies “water security” itself. Remember, water security is a pursuit centered on “the capacity of a population to safeguard access to water in a climate of peace and political stability”. 

Egypt for its own sake must find a water source that constitutes its national water wealth and pursue its water security. Egypt has no known fresh surface water wealth. Hence, Egypt cannot claim to embed its water security on any fresh surface water, including “the Nile”.   In another closely related analogy, despite the fact that oil and gas form the backbone of any economy and civilization, countries that lack oil/gas in the mix of their national wealth do not advance a policy of energy security based on the petroleum/oil resources of other states.  The last time states tried to openly claim personal security over the wealth of other states, the outcome was colonization and slavery.  No explanation is needed as to the demise of such policies.  

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com  

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1 COMMENT

  1. Excellent article and to the point. I hope those ‘Superpower’ wannabes in Al-Qahirah will heed this advice. All those 9 African nations cited in this article are young nations which means more than 60% of their population is younger than 40 years old are multiplying like worms. They have a combined and estimated population of more than 438 million as we speak now if we include the Democratic Republic of Congo because there has been considerable drainage flowing out this country into rivers that join the main river, White Nile. It is a wakeup call for Egypt. I’m sure it has more than enough experts to know all about this future reality already in the works now.

    Since we have done enough reminding Egypt and Sudan, let’s now turn our attention to the source countries of the Nile River. During the last 30 years each one of those countries has done its part to balloon its population to an alarming rate. Take our own old country as an example. Its population was around 86 million in 2011 and now it is estimated to have ballooned to a whopping 130 million today. The officials there are planning a countrywide census in 2025 and I won’t be surprised if the count shots up to around 150 million. That would be an increase by 75% in less than 15 years. It is a country where 70% of the population is younger than 35 years old at the robust age of reproduction. It seems that having 10 children per father is the magic number. It is the same rate in the other Nile basin countries. They better start addressing this out of control multiplying under control and leaders of both major religions must help in the effort. There is nothing in the Holy Scriptures of both major religions where The Almighty Our Creator had told mankind to OVER POPULATE the earth. We are given the permission and blessing to multiply but not to jam it up. They better start shaping up now and put a kibosh on brooding like worms!!!

    Excellent article by the Anonymous Writer.

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