ICE Case Studies

Case Number:

Case Identifier: BLUE NILE

Case Name: Nile River Dispute

I. CASE BACKGROUND

1. Abstract

The Nile is the world's longest river, and an estimated 123 million people depend on the Nile waters for survival. The river originates from two distinct geographical zones, the basins of the White and Blue Niles. The source of the White Nile is in the Great or Equatorial Lakes Region, and is also fed by the Bahr-el-Jebel water system to the north and east of the Nile-Congo Rivers divide.(6) Its catchment area includes the riparian states of Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Congo/Zaire, Kenya and Sudan. The Blue Nile originates in the highlands of Ethiopia and Eretria, as do the other major tributaries of the Nile, the Atbara and the Sobat. About 85% of the Nile's waters originate in Ethiopia and Eretria, while the majority of the river's water is used in the Sudan and Egypt.

Irrigated agriculture is the largest draw on the waters of the Nile, particularly in Egypt and the Sudan. Pressure on Nile resouces is likely to increase dramatically in the coming years as a result of high population growth rates in all riparian states, and increasing development-related water needs in Ethiopia.

In 1929, the Nile Waters Agreement was concluded through an exchange of notes between the British High Commission in Cairo and the Egyptian government. The agreement heavily favored Egypt's "historic rights" allocating for Egyptian use 48 bcm per year, only 4 bcm for the Sudan, and leaving 32 bcm per year unallocated. The period 1954-1958 was characterized by political conflicts between Egypt and the Sudan over sharing of the Nile waters. As noted by Ashok Swain, Sudan achieved independence in 1956, and its first Prime Minister "immediately reiterated that the 1929 agreement should be revised, just when Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt was contemplating the creation of a massive new dam at Aswan." Tensions increased between Egypt and the Sudan in 1956-1958, as the Sudan voiced further objections to the Aswan High Dam and continued demanding a renegotiation of the 1929 agreement. Egypt subsequently withdrew its support for the Sudanese project to build a reservoir at Roseires on the Blue Nile, and Sudan unilaterally declared its non-adherence to the 1929 agreement. In a show of force, Egypt moved units of its army to the border with Sudan.

In November 1958, there was a military takeover in Sudan and the establishment of a regime more open to negotiation with the Egyptian government. Within a year, the two countries re-negotiated the 1929 agreement and developed the 1959 Agreement between the Republic of the Sudan and the United Arab Republic. The new agreement set Egypt's share of Nile waters at 55.5 bcm per year and allocated to the Sudan's an allotment of 18.5 bcm per year. Other riparians were not included in this agreement. Favorable relations between the two continued until the ouster of Sudanese President Nimeiri, and relations further deteriorated in 1989 as the Islamic fundamentalist regime unilaterally abolished the cooperation agreements and began supporting anti-Egyptian forces in its territory. In recent years, disputes between Egypt and the Sudan have been more overtly political and less about water, in part because the Sudan's civil strife has halted significant development in this country.

Present and potential conflict over water in the basin stems from the increased food and agricultural needs generated by a rapidly growing population in the riparian states. Egypt is desperately trying to meet its food needs through dramatically expanding the number of acres under irrigation, and has started two new, major irrigation projects. However, Egypt is already at or above its allocation of Nile water under the 1959 Agreement, and some sources claim that it is taking up to 2 bcm more than its share.

Ethiopia is the new unknown in the conflict equation, as the end of the Ethiopian civil war has opened the doors to new development. Rapid population growth and the need to establish food security after the famines of the 1980s have prompted Ethiopia to press ahead with plans to divert Nile waters for irrigation.

Previous efforts to establish cooperation among riparians have been limited by Ethiopia, who usually would only participate as an observer. Although hydrological surveys and basin- management efforts have been partially successful, Ethiopia's refusal to participate has seriously limited their utility, as 85% of the Nile's waters come from the Ethiopian highlands. Moreover, Ethiopia and Egypt exchanged fairly non-cooperative policy papers at a 1996 conference on Nile cooperation, each asserting its rights to use Nile water as it sees fit.

At the current time, tensions in the Nile River Basin are contained by a number of factors, including Egypt's political and military dominance, the civil war in the Sudan and negligible use of water by other upstream riparians. Concurrently, however, other factors are working to increase the potential for conflict over water in the basin: high population growth in both upstream and downstream countries, accompanied by subsequent demand for increases in agricultural irrigation; nascent development in Ethiopia; environmental degradation of established Egyptian irrigated land; and the possibility of an eventual end to the Sudanese war, which would spur development in Sudan. Although each of the above factors holds the potential to increase tension and cause conflict in the basin, many also represent potential areas of cooperation. Prevention of armed conflict in the Nile basin could occur in a great number of realms, from the technical to the political, from domestic solutions to regional solutions.

2. Description


1. Hydrography of the Basin The Nile is the world's longest river, stretching 6,700 km in length and covering an area of 2.9 million km3. The river originates from two distinct geographical zones, the basins of the White and Blue Niles. The source of the White Nile is in the Great or Equatorial Lakes Region, and is also fed by the Bahr-el-Jebel water system to the north and east of the Nile-Congo Rivers divide.(6) Its catchment area includes the riparian states of Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Congo/Zaire, Kenya and Sudan. The Blue Nile originates in the highlands of Ethiopia and Eretria, as do the other major tributaries of the Nile, the Atbara and the Sobat.

The White and Blue Niles converge in Khartoum, in Sudan, and from there flow north to the Mediterranean Sea. The two tributaries have dramatically different flow patterns. The White Nile's flow is tempered by the natural perennial storage of the Great Lakes, of which Lake Victoria is the most important. Consequently, it is characterized by a relatively steady flow pattern. Although the annual water input in the equatorial region can reach 400 billion cubicmeters (bcm), the annual flow at the Sudanese border varies between 20 and 22 bcm because of the lakes' storage. While in southern Sudan, the white Nile meanders for over a year through the Sudd swamp lands, where over half of its flow is lost to evaporation.(7)

The Blue Nile and the Atbara are subject to heavy seasonal fluctuations in flow as a result of the seasonal rains of the Ethiopian highlands. Between the months of July and September, flow increases dramatically due to heavy rains, but the Blue Nile may run empty during dry seasons or droughts.

The Nile River has an annual flow in normal years of 84 bcm at Aswan, in southern Egypt. Of this, 85% to 86% is from the Blue Nile, the Atbara and the Sobat, originating in the Ethiopian highlands, with only 14% originating from the Great Lakes region.(8)

Blue Nile 59%

Atbara 13%

Sobat 14%

White Nile/Bahr-el-Jebel 14%

The average annual flow of the Nile varies depending on the amount of rainfall, and has been declining steadily during the twentieth century. From 1870 to 1899, the average annual flow at Aswan was 110 bcm, and has declined to 83 bcm from 1899 to 1954 and 81.5 bcm from 1954- 1988.(9)

2. National Uses of Water Resources

An estimated 246 million people live in the Nile River basin, half of whom are dependant on the Nile waters for survival. This population is among the world's poorest, with an average GNP per capita of US$282 in 1994.(10) The population of the basin is expected to increase to 800 million people by the middle of the next century.(11)

Irrigated agriculture is the largest draw on the waters of the Nile. Although all of the riparian states' economies are primarily agricultural, the agricultural activities in the upstream states are supported by abundant, if erratic, rainfall and require little irrigation. Upstream states currently draw little of the Nile waters for use in irrigation, although the waters are used for hydroelectric power generation in Uganda(12). The downstream states of Egypt and Sudan, on the other hand, are heavily dependant on irrigated agriculture for food production, and use 94% of the available Nile water, leaving just 6% for all other riparian states.(13)

a. Sudan's Use of Nile Water Resources

Sudan is the largest country in Africa, with a population of 26 million and an annual rate of growth of 2.8%. Large areas in the north of the country receive little rainfall and are almost completely dependant on irrigation. The irrigation subsector contributes 65 percent of GNP. (14) Under current arrangements, Sudan is allocated 18.5 bcm of the annual flow, and it uses slightly less than its allotment. Sudan is currently stymied in development efforts by an ongoing civil war in the South and its ostracism from the world community because of its support of terrorism.

b. Egypt's use of national water resources

The Nile River delta fields in Egypt have probably been cultivated continuously for longer than any other fields on Earth.(15) As the amount of rainfall in Egypt is negligible, all food production relies on irrigation. Irrigated agriculture is still the major destination of Nile water, and the government plans to increase the amount of irrigated cropland each year by 60,000 hectares.(16) Although irrigated agriculture was traditionally the dominant sector in the Egyptian economy, the share of agriculture as a component of GDP has fallen steadily in past decades to about seventeen percent by the early 1990s.(17) More than 60 million people live in Egypt. The population of Egypt is set to double in the next fifty years, and projections show demand for water increasing dramatically. Egypt is currently using draws 2 bcm more from the river than its allotment under the standing agreement with Sudan (55.5), which, when supplemented with 2 bcm of underground water and 4 bcm of recycled drainage water, make up its 1995 needs of 64.5 bcm.(18) Current projections of Egypt's water needs by the end of the century range from to 69 to 79 bcm, and deficit projections range from US AID's estimate of a 16 - 30% deficit by the year 2000, to the World Bank estimates of 2-6% to 22-27%, depending on climatic cycles .(19)

3. Past and Present Freshwater Conflicts and Cooperation

a. Past Conflicts

After the British conquest of Egypt in 1882, Britain became the primary colonial power in the Nile River basin, but was later joined by the Italians in Ethiopia and the Belgians in the Congo Free State. By the turn of the century, the European colonialists had subdivided the Nile basin into zones of influence, and Britain had recognized that the primary consideration of its imperium on the Nile and at Suez rested on the security of Egyptian Nile waters. (20) Nonetheless, the colonial powers recognized the hydrological unity of the basin in protocols and boundary agreements which prohibited any construction on tributaries that would interrupt the flow of the Nile to Egypt and Sudan without prior consultation and agreement.(21)

In 1929, the Nile Waters Agreement was concluded through an exchange of notes between the British High Commission in Cairo and the Egyptian government. The agreement heavily favored Egypt's "historic rights, "(22) allocating for Egyptian use 48 bcm per year, only 4 bcm for the Sudan, and leaving 32 bcm per year unallocated. Not only were other upstream riparians not included in this agreement, but it was stipulated once again that, so long as they were under British jurisdiction, upstream states could undertake not undertake without permission any development on the tributaries or on the equatorial lakes that would alter Nile flows to Egypt.

After the Second World War, the control of Nile waters once again became a central issue in regional politics as the self-determination and national liberation movements grew in strength. In Egypt, the rapid increase in population had led to an increase in water demand for irrigated agriculture and improvement of technological control of the Nile, and a limited increase in industrial water use.(23) The Sudanese administration began preparing the case for an increase in its share of Nile waters following the Egyptian revolution in 1952.(24) The Sudanese administration revived plans to build the Jonglei canal through the Sudd swamps, thus reducing the immense amount of White Nile waters lost to evaporation, and developed new plans to increase irrigated area and build the Roseries Dam on the Blue Nile. The new plans would have required an increase in allocated use of Nile waters above the amount stipulated in the 1929 agreement.

In the meantime, Egypt was developing the highly controversial plan to build the Aswan High Dam for over-year storage and regulation of flood waters. The construction of the dam would create a reservoir extending 150 km into the Sudan, submerging the old town of Halfa and displacing 50,000 people.(25)

The period 1954-1958 was characterized by political conflicts between Egypt and the Sudan over sharing of the Nile waters. As noted by Ashok Swain, Sudan achieved independence in 1956, and its first Prime Minister "immediately reiterated that the 1929 agreement should be revised, just when Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt was contemplating the creation of a massive new dam at Aswan."(26) Further complicating the situation was the international attention given to the Aswan High Dam Plan. The Western countries and the World Bank had originally offered technical and financial support for the dam, but environmental and socio-economic concerns led to the withdrawal of this support.(27) Egypt then turned to the Soviet Union for support and nationalized the Suez Canal in retaliation against the West, leading to the Suez Canal Crisis.

Tensions increased between Egypt and the Sudan in 1956-1958, as the Sudan voiced further objections to the Aswan High Dam and continued demanding a renegotiation of the 1929 agreement. Egypt subsequently withdrew its support for the Sudanese project to build a reservoir at Roseires on the Blue Nile, and Sudan unilaterally declared its non-adherence to the 1929 agreement. In a show of force, Egypt moved units of its army to the border with Sudan.(28)

In November 1958, three weeks before the Soviet Union formally offered financial assistance to Egypt for the Aswan High Dam (29), there was a military takeover in Sudan and the establishment of a regime more open to negotiation with the Egyptian government. Within a year, the two countries re-negotiated the 1929 agreement and developed the 1959 Agreement between the Republic of the Sudan and the United Arab Republic. The new agreement set Egypt's share of Nile waters at 55.5 bcm per year and allocated to the Sudan's an allotment of 18.5 bcm per year. The remaining 10 bcm flow per year was allocated to evaporation and seepage loss, and it was agreed that any additions to annual flow through conservation or discovery be split equally between the two countries.(30) Plans to move ahead on the Aswan High Dam and the construction of the Roseires reservoir were also approved.

The new water agreement most notably did not include other riparian states and allocated the entire flow to Egypt, Sudan and natural loss. Ethiopia in particular stressed its rights to the waters originating from its territory, and began to work with the United States Bureau of Reclamation to study and assess its water resources and irrigation and power potential. In 1970, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had threatened war with Ethiopia over the proposed construction of a dam on Lake Tana on the Blue Nile(31), yet despite the obvious displeasure of Egypt, Ethiopia subsequently refused full participation in basin-wide cooperation efforts prompted by the 1959 Agreement.(32) Egypt and the Sudan expressed concern in 1978 over a reported series of feasibility studies in Ethiopia, to which Ethiopia replied, according to O. Okidi, with "a series of terse and nonconciliatory responses directed largely to Egypt and in part, to the Sudan." He continues,

"[Ethiopia's] position was that 'Ethiopia has all the rights to exploit her natural resources.' Purportedly the statements also reminded Egypt that, even though it receives 85 percent of its Nile waters from Ethiopia, it has never shown friendship nor sought cooperation from Ethiopia. The Ethiopian statement points out that Egypt went ahead and built the Aswan Dam which has to depend on the Blue Nile waters, 'without even consulting Ethiopia.'"(33)

Construction of the Aswan High Dam started in 1960 and continued until 1971. During this time, relations were favorable between the Egypt and the Sudan. Ashok Swain notes that, "In return for helping [Sudanese President] Nimeiri to remain in power, Egypt obtained a number of concessions from the Sudan, notably permission to construct the Jonglei Canal in 1976."(34) Jonglei Canal would circumvent the swamps of the Sudd in southern Sudan, increasing the flow of the Nile by 5 bcm yearly. Under the 1959 Agreement, this would be split equally between the two neighbors. Despite international controversy over the impact of the canal on the swamps and the people the canal would displace and disturb, work commenced on the canal in 1978. Construction of the canal halted in 1984 after a series of violent attacks by the Sudanese People's Liberation Army, and the continuing civil war in southern Sudan has made any further work impossible.

Egypt and the Sudan's relations remained friendly during the early 1980s, and in 1982, the two signed an agreement including plans for the future integration of policy and programs.(35) After the ouster of Sudanese President Nimeiri, the new regime in Khartoum, faced with rapid population growth and increased food needs, began demanding re-negotiation of the 1959 Agreement. The Sudan began the construction of small dams and developed plans for further irrigation as well. Relations between the two further deteriorated in 1989 as the Islamic fundamentalist regime unilaterally abolished the cooperation agreements and began supporting anti-Egyptian forces in its territory.(36)

Despite increased emphasis on water cooperation in the early 1990s, water rights remained an issue of great concern in the region as population growth stretched the Nile to its limits in Egypt and Sudan. In October 1991, Egyptian Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Mohammed Hussein Tantawi remarked in al Ahram that his country would not hesitate to use force to defend its control of the Nile River, and predicted that future Middle East wars could result from water scarcity issues.(37) He said, "I do not actually expect an impending control of the Nile River by a foreign country, but we consider it a possibility and are planning our military strategy accordingly."(38) Boutros Boutros-Ghali is reported also to have talked of war over the Nile waters.(39)

Tensions between the Sudan and Egypt remained high for political reasons as well. In June of 1995, Egyptian President Mubarak narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Addis Ababa in which Sudanese Islamic militants were the suspects. Egypt took control of a disputed area on the Sudanese border, and the aftermath of this included the issuance of threats and continued tension.(40)

b. Present and Potential Water Conflicts

Present and potential conflict over water in the basin stems from the increased food and agricultural needs generated by a rapidly growing population in the riparian states. All three of the major players, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, publicly stated as recently as February 1997 that their share of the water is insufficient and are demanding the right to use the water as they see fit.(41)

Egypt Expanding Nile Water Use Already At Limit

Egypt is desperately trying to meet its food needs through dramatically expanding the number of acres under irrigation. On October 26, 1997, the Al Salam Canal, or Peace Canal, was opened by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. This canal will transport Nile waters under the Suez Canal into the Sinai desert, adding 620 acres of arable land and allowing 5.5 million Nile Valley residents to resettle there. The $1.62 billion project was partly financed by Kuwait.(42) Earlier this year, work started on the Toshka, or New Valley Project, which will extend a canal from Lake Nasser above the Aswan Dam westward into the desert. The Nile water will be supplemented by groundwater extraction from a number of desert oases, allowing a total of a million new acres to be farmed.(43) Although the first phase of the New Valley Plan, the canal, will cost about $2 billion, the further projects in agriculture, industry and tourism bring the total estimated cost to $88 billion.(44)

Both of these plans have been heavily criticized by water resource experts.(45) Egypt is at or above its allocation of Nile water under the 1959 Agreement, and some sources claim that it is taking up to 2 bcm more than its share.(46) Magdy Sobhy, of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, criticizes the Toshka project as unrealistic because it is based on Nile flows during last year's higher-than-average flood. He cites other projects, such as wastewater reclamation and different agricultural techniques, which could increase Egypt's water supply for irrigation instead.(47)

However, pressures are high on Egypt to continue to expand its agricultural production. Even though it uses its full allocation, it still imports over half its food, including 10 million tons of grain a year. Moreover, it has been suggested that Mubarak is pushing the New Valley project in part to deal with domestic political problems created by overcrowding and unemployment, which stands at about 20%(48) The New Valley project could attract as many as seven million people to jobs in the desert while increasing the country's food production.

Ethiopia Beginning to Develop; Demanding Water Rights

Ethiopia is the new unknown in the conflict equation, as the end of the Ethiopian civil war has opened the doors to new development. Rapid population growth and the need to establish food security after the famines of the 1980s have prompted Ethiopia to press ahead with plans to divert Nile waters for irrigation. In 1990, Egypt blocked an African Development Bank loan to Ethiopia for new irrigation projects,(49) but, according to Peter Wallenstein and Ashok Swain, Egypt's political dominance in the region was further weakened with a 1991 agreement between Sudan and Ethiopia to cooperate over the use of Nile water.(50) Ethiopian farmers are already building small earthen dams on the tributaries of the Blue Nile, which -- although permitted by the 1959 Agreement -- are restricting flow to Sudan and Egypt by as much as 2-3 million cubic meters per year.(51)

It has been reported that Ethiopia may be planning to implement a significant irrigation project, and that several hydropower projects are being developed. However, Ashok Swain notes the government's caution: "But bearing in mind the apprehension raised by an earlier unilateral plan to divert 4 billion cubic metres of water from the Blue Nile for Ethiopia's own irrigation projects, the present Government is unlikely to promote any 'surprise' schemes. Indeed, the Ethiopian Parliament only approved the construction of two small hydropower dams on the Blue Nile in June 1996. However, according to the Minister of Water Resources, the Government will undertake the construction of required projects, with or without foreign assistance, once its master plan for the highlands has been completed by early 1998."(52)

Ethiopia's willingness to demand a greater share of the Nile waters was echoed in a February 1997 policy paper, presented during a four-day annual conference on the use of Nile River waters. It stated, "The stark inequity currently prevailing in the Nile Basin cannot remain in the future since only the downstream riparian states (Egypt and Sudan) are exclusively utilizing the Nile waters while upstream countries have not been able to secure their equitable right."(53) Furthermore, it is not only Egypt that is issuing threats to Ethiopia. Sudan accused Ethiopia in 1996 of sponsoring attacks by Sudanese opposition forces in order to dam the Blue Nile in Ethiopia and deprive the downstream riparians of water, but Ethiopia denied the charges.(54)

Ethiopia has indicated some willingness to cooperate. Seyoum Mesfin, Foreign Minister for Ethiopia, addressed the United Nations on October 3, 1997. In his speech, he stressed that Ethiopia will not achieve food security until it is no longer dependant on rain-fed agriculture, and therefore must utilize available water for irrigation. He called on Nile River riparians to commit themselves to real, fair, equitable and just outcomes in what cannot be a zero-sum game.(55)

Other Riparian Countries Claiming Water Rights

Certain areas of the Sudan are suffering from increased desertification, and, as in Ethiopia, some farmers are building small dams on tributaries of the Nile Rivers. Sudan is suffering from the same explosive population growth and food needs of its neighbors, and may be expected to need as much as 33 bcm, or 13.5 bcm greater than its 1959 allocation, by 2025. Without an end to the civil war, it is unlikely that any further work will be done on the Jonglei Canal, which would mean that this increase would have to come from increased withdrawals from the Nile -- implying less water for downstream Egypt. However, the Sudan does not appear to be sufficiently stable economically or politically to develop its water potential on the Nile, and its international isolation virtually rules out international development aid.(56)

Other upstream riparians, Kenya and Tanzania, plan to use Lake Victoria on the White Nile for irrigation. Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda are cooperating to develop another river feeding Lake Victoria,(57) and many of the Great Lakes Region riparians are planning hydroelectric projects. For the moment, though, the area of tension is limited to Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

4. Past and Present Efforts on Freshwater Cooperation

Section IV (3) of the 1959 Nile Water Agreement between Egypt and Sudan required the parties to establish a Permanent Joint Technical Commission which would supervise all working arrangements, carry out hydrological studies, and fulfill other technical duties.(58) Informal talks began between the Commission, representing Egypt and Sudan, and the coordinating Nile Water Committee, created to represent the upstream riparians of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Joint hydrological studies of the Great Lakes area ensued, and Burundi, Rwanda, and Zaire later joined in this basin-wide cooperation. Ethiopia joined only as an observer.(59)

In 1967, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) joined with the basin countries to launch the Hydromet Survey to evaluate catchments in the Great Lakes region and analyze the flows downstream. Ethiopia refused once again to participate, limiting the scope of the survey's information-gathering to only areas which contribute 15% of the Nile's flow at Aswan. Nonetheless, Yahia Abdel Mageed notes that, "This was one of the most successful institutions of the basin, being the first forum for cooperation, despite the fact that in terms of area it extended only to the lake catchments of the equatorial region."(60) Bilateral moves also took place in 1991 and 1993, when Ethiopia signed agreements with Sudan and Egypt, respectively, to cooperate on the use of Nile waters.(61)

The Hydromet Survey completed its work in 1992, but by that time the UNDP had been active in promoting other cooperation initiatives. In 1986, water resource ministers from Egypt, the Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire met in Bangkok and decided to promote and establish effective cooperation among riparian countries. Ethiopia was represented by its ambassador to France. Further UNDP sponsored efforts to spark cooperation, including financial assistance for a fact-finding mission and a second meeting of the ministers, were unsuccessful.

In 1992, the water resources ministers from the above five countries plus Rwanda created what was originally to be a three year project on Nile Cooperation. The Technical Committee for the Promotion of the Development and Environmental Protection of the Nile Basin (Tecconile) came into operation in 1993, and its mandate has recently been extended to 1998.(62)

Cooperation is concurrently promoted during yearly conferences set to run through 2002, during which representatives of Burundi (observer), Egypt, Eretria (observer), Ethiopia (observer), Kenya (observer), Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zaire/Congo meet to exchange views and foster cooperation. Swain notes that Ethiopia "does not consider that all the governments in the region should have an equally important 'say' in the decisions," and "prefers to retain its status ... as an observer only, without having the commitment of being a full-fledged member."(63) Moreover, Ethiopia and Egypt exchanged fairly non-cooperative policy papers at the 1996 conference, each asserting its rights to use Nile water as it sees fit.(64)

3. Duration: In Progress (1904 to now)

4. Location

Continent: Mideast

Region: Mideast Africa

Country: Egypt

5. Actors: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Burundi, Zaire, Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya

The primary actors at the current time are Egypt, the Sudan and Ethiopia, but population pressures and industrialization may increase the demands of other riparians on the Nile's waters.

II. Environment Aspects

6. Type of Environmental Problem: WATER

See White Nile case study.

7. Type of Habitat: DRY

8. Act and Harm Sites:




Act Site       Harm Site           Example







Egypt          Sudan               Plans for diversion of the Nile 


III. Conflict Aspects

9. Type of Conflict: INTERSTATE

Although war has not yet broken out between the nations involved, some believe growing demands may eventually lead to armed conflict. Signs of this trend are already surfacing. There have been numerous skirmishes between Sudanese and Egyptian troops as well as a number of statements made. The nations of the Nile basin have also classified access to the waters of the Nile river as a vital national interest over which they would be willing to go to war.

For now, there has been enough water to satisfy most of the nations' needs, but in the near future those resources which have been left top them will cease to suffice.

10. Level of Conflict: THREAT

11. Fatality Level of Dispute: >10

III. Environment and Conflict Overlap

12. Environment-Conflict Link and Dynamics: DIRECT

The dynamics are the result of feedback between water resources and development needs, especially water. The internationalization of the issue adds another element.

Causal Diagram




              /--------------------(+)----------------\



              |                     +                 |



           ___V_              _____________          _|__________  


         /     \ ---(-)->   /             \ -(+)-> /            \  


        [ Dev't ]     -    [  Water Supply ]  -   [ Agriculture  ]  


         \_____/   <-(+)----\_____________/ <-(-)- \____________/  


             \                 /\       |               /\         


              \----------------|---(+)--|---------------/



                               |        |



                              (-)   -  (-)



                               |        |



                               |        V



                             ______________



                            /              \



                           [  Int'l Tension ]



                            \______________/










13. Level of Strategic Interest: REGION

14. Outcome of Dispute: YIELD

IV. Related Information and Sources

15. Related ICE and TED Cases

TED Cases
EGYPT Case
ATATURK Case
DANUBE Case
MARSH Case
DEADSEA Case

ICE Cases
BLUENILE Case
LITANI Case
CAUVERY Case
JORDAN River Case
See White Nile case study.

Endnotes

6. Bonaya Adhi Godana, Africa's Shared Water Resources: Legal and Institutional Aspects of the Nile, Niger and Senegal Water Systems (Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner Publishers, Inc., 1985) 78.

7. Fred Pearce, "High and Dry in Aswan, " New Scientist 7 May 1994: 31; Godana 82.

8. Pearce 30; Peter Wallenstein and Ashok Swain, "International Fresh Water Resources: Source of Conflict or Cooperation," copy of working paper provided by author, 30.

9. Yahia Ablel Mageed, "The Nile Basin, Lessons from the Past," International Waters of the Middle East, Asit K. Biswas, ed. (Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1994) 165.

10. Ashok Swain, "The Nile River Dispute: Ethiopia, the Sudan, and Egypt," The Journal of Modern African Studies, 35.4 (1997) 1.

11. Mageed 165.

12. P.P. Howell and J.A. Allen, "Introduction," The Nile: Sharing a Scarce Resource, Howell and Allen, eds, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 8.

13. Anthony Shadid, "Cairo May See Waters of Nile Diminish," Los Angeles Times, 17 December 1995: A38.

14. Mageed 174.

15. Pearce 30.

16. Bleier, Ronald, "Will Nile Water go to Israel? North Sinai Pipelines and the Politics of Scarcity," Middle East Policy, v. 5, no. 3 (September 1997) 114.

17. Howell and Allen 8.

18. Bleier 119.

19. Postel 78; Bleier 119.

20. Robert Collins, "History, Hydropolitics and the Nile: Myth or Reality?" The Nile: Sharing a Scarce Resource, Howell and Allen, eds, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 111.

21. Mageed 166.

22. Collins 115.

23. Godana 181. 24. Swain 3.

25. Mageed 168.

26. Swain 4.

27. Mageed 169.

28. Swain 4.

29. Collins 121.

30. ibid.

31. George D. Moffett, "Nile River Rights Run Deep," The Christian Science Monitor, 13 March 1990: 5.

32. Mageed 170.

33. O. Okidi, "History of the Nile and Lake Victoria Basins through Treaties," The Nile: Sharing a Scarce Resource, Howell and Allen, eds, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 341.

34. Swain 6.

35. ibid.

36. ibid.

37. "Egypt Defense Minister Warns on Water," U.P.I. release, 7 October 1991.

38. "Egypt Vows to Protect Nile by Force if Necessary," Xinhua General Overseas News Service, 7 October 1991.

39. Pearce 32.

40. Bleier 115.

41. See, for example, Tsegaye Tadesse, "Ethiopia Accuses Sudan and Egypt over Nile Waters," Reuters World Service, 26 February 1997; Tadesse, "Egypt Calls for Cooperation Between Nile States," Reuters World Service, 25 February 1997; Tadesse, "Ethiopia Appeals for Fair use of Nile Waters," Reuters World Service, 24 February 1997.

42. Esmat Salaheddin, "Mubarak Sends Mile Water Flooding into Sinai," Reuters World Service, 26 October 1997; "Egypt Channels Nile Water Flows to Irrigate Sinai," Xinhua News Service, 26 October 1997.

43. Salaheddin 26 October 1997.

44. "Econews: Egypt-Development Cairo Launches Major Projects to Develop South," Africa News Service, 1 October 1997.

45. Alan Cooperman, "Egypt Clones a Nile," U.S. News and World Report, 18 May 1997: 35.

46. Bleier 119.

47. Salaheddin 26 October 1997.

48. Cooperman 34.

49. Moffett 5.

50. Wallenstein and Swain.

51. Bleier 119.

52. Swain 114.

53. Tsegaye Tadesse, "Ethiopia Accuses Sudan and Egypt over Nile Waters," Reuters World Service, 26 February 1997.

54. Tadesse, "Egypt Calls for Cooperation Between Nile States," Reuters World Service, 25 February 1997.

55. "General Assembly Speech by Ethiopian Minister," Africa News Service, 6 October 1997.

56. Swain 17.

57. Shadid A38.

58. Okidi 335.

59. Mageed 170.

60. Mageed 171.

61. Swain 17.

62. Swain 15.

63. Swain 16.

64. See Tadesse articles.

10. Relevant Web Sites

Odyssey Down the Nile
Egypt Page

Go to All ICE Cases

Go to ICE Page Cases


November, 1997