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Banks on upstream projects to yield more water

Reuters CAIRO: Egypt must persuade countries in the Nile basin to improve their water management so that more water flows downstream for its growing population, Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Mahmoud Abu Zeid said. Egypt depends on the Nile flowing in from Sudan for 95 percent of its water as no significant tributaries add to …


Reuters

CAIRO: Egypt must persuade countries in the Nile basin to improve their water management so that more water flows downstream for its growing population, Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Mahmoud Abu Zeid said. Egypt depends on the Nile flowing in from Sudan for 95 percent of its water as no significant tributaries add to the flow once the river crosses the border. But Egypt already uses more than 55.5 billion cubic meters of Nile water a year, its quota under a 1959 agreement with Sudan. If Sudan decided to use its full share, Egypt would receive less and would have no legal recourse. The solution was to persuade Nile basin states upstream to improve their water management so that more water reaches the Egyptian-Sudanese border, Abu Zeid said late on Monday in a speech to the Foreign Press Association in Cairo. If Ethiopia improves its terracing in highland agriculture, for example, more water will reach the river and it will bring down less silt, which reduces the lifespan of dams. The Baro-Akobo project, which includes building a network of dams and canals in southeastern Ethiopia, would add 12 billion cubic meters of water a year for the Nile, he said. The Jonglei canal, by channeling water across the swamps of southern Sudan, would add another four billion, he said. Work on the Jonglei canal was suspended in 1985 because of the outbreak of rebellion in southern Sudan but the signing of a peace treaty last year makes it possible for work to resume. Abu Zeid said Egypt was willing to contribute half the costs of finishing the project, which was 60 percent complete and has not deteriorated much in the intervening 21 years, he said. At the time Egypt received its water quota in 1959, the country had a population of about 20 million. That has grown to 72 million and is expected to reach 150 million by 2050. So we face a very serious problem, he said. So much Nile water is used inside Egypt that only 500 million cubic meters a year, about 1 percent of the quota, flows into the Mediterranean. That is about the minimum needed to prevent saline intrusion in the Nile Delta and wash out the water channels, Abu Zeid said. For the past few years, the Egyptian minister has been negotiating a new Nile waters agreement with nine other governments, a process expected to be complete by August. The largest challenge … has been to agree that the 55.5 (billion cubic meters) is assured for Egypt. This took so long. We had to show that the potential for additional water is great and that we can increase the yield of the Nile through this or that project, for everyone, Abu Zeid said.

Topics: Aboul Fotouh

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