Nile treaty will strip Egypt of veto power

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 01 March 2011

Burundi has signed a deal on the sharing of Nile waters, paving the way for the ratification of the accord, which will strip Egypt of its veto power on rights to the river, an official said on Tuesday.

Egypt's 1959 deal with Sudan gave the two downstream countries more than 90 percent control of Nile waters.

“After Burundi signed (Monday), now the agreement can come into force,” Daniel Meboya, regional spokesperson at the Entebbe-based Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) that led the negotiations, told AFP in Kampala.

Meboya said that according to relevant international law, six of the negotiating parties needed to sign before the treaty could be ratified by the riparian countries’ respective parliaments. All six parliaments are expected to ratify the deal.

Last year, after a decade of talks, four Nile nations inked a deal that allowed upstream countries to implement irrigation and hydropower projects without first seeking Egypt’s approval.

For decades, Egypt held veto rights over all upstream projects, following powers granted by a 1929 colonial-era treaty with Britain.

Egypt’s subsequent 1959 deal with Sudan gave the two downstream countries more than 90 percent control of Nile waters.

Egypt and Sudan boycotted the ceremony where the new treaty was unveiled, and vowed not to recognise any deal agreed without their consent.

At the March 2010 ceremony, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia agreed to scrap both Egypt’s veto rights and the 90% control provision.

The signing ceremony marked the close of negotiations, and the other affected countries, including Kenya, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo were given one year to ink the deal.

Kenya signed last May and Burundi signed on Monday, the last possible day for signature.

“Now it is for the six individual legislatures to ratify the treaty,” Meboya said.

Egypt and Sudan have argued their water supply would be dangerously reduced if upstream countries are able to divert the river flow without multi-lateral consultation.

– Sapa

Scale of Ethiopian dam building alarms environmentalists

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 28 March 2010

At the foot of a towering gorge slicing through southern Ethiopia the Omo river suddenly disappears into a tunnel bored into the rock face. Excavators claw at the soil and stone in the exposed riverbed beyond, where a giant concrete wall will soon appear in the ravine.

At 243 metres the Gibe III dam will be the highest on the continent, a controversial centrepiece of Ethiopia’s extraordinary multibillion-pound hydroelectric boom.

The building of Gibe III is anticipated to reduce the water level of Lake Turkana

The country that prides itself as “The Water Tower of Africa” plans to end an energy shortage by building a network of mega dams on the web of rivers that tumble down from its highlands.

By 2020, with the help of Italian and Chinese construction firms, Ethiopia will, it hopes, have increased its power generation capacity 15-fold and become a significant exporter of electricity to the region.

“For a developing country like ours the dams are a must,” said Abdulhakim Mohammed, head of generation construction at the Ethiopia Electric Power Corporation (Eepco). “Power is everything.”

But the pace and scale of the hydro projects have alarmed environmental groups, who say proper impact assessment studies are not being carried out.

Gibe III, which will have a generating capacity of 1,870MW – double what was available in all of Ethiopia last year – has sparked the greatest opposition.

This week a coalition of campaign groups, including International Rivers, based in California, and Survival International, launched an online petition with the aim of stopping the dam, warning of potentially disastrous social and economic effects for tribes downstream.

“It’s an unnecessary, highly destructive project,” said Terri Hathaway, Africa campaigner for International Rivers. Continue reading