Borders establish limitations, separations between political regimes, economic opportunities and resource rights. So how do we deal with the allocation of trans-border goods?
This is a case study about Cairo, we could hence wonder why an innovative project in Ethiopia could create such concern to all of Egypt? Well, GERD threatens the source of, according to Egypt Today, 95% of Egypt’s water.
A non-negligible fact is understanding the colonial 1959 agreement that “entitles” Egypt and Sudan to 55.5 Billion Cubic Metres (BCM) and 18.5 BCM of Nile water, respectively (Nashar).
Growing population contributes to Cairo’s water scarcity and food insecurity. Abdelkader says that Egypt is the most populous country in MENA (Middle East and North Africa), with a population of 92 million and a population growth rate of 2 percent.
Indeed, more people imply more mouths to feed and lives to sustain, hence increasing demand and further accentuating the need for supply. The later, hence increases reliance on this Egyptian watershed, a dependency that is not complementary to decreased water flows, due to the GERD. As the matter of fact, the filling of the reservoir is a primary concern linked to the dam. Though the filling time remains unpredictable, estimations vary from 3 to 7 years. The British Journal of Applied Science & Technology predicts that the Nile’s flow will decrease by 12-25% during this period.
The country is already food and water scarce. Currently, according to Falkenmark (1989), Egypt’s renewable per capita water resources of 630 m3 per year are already too low for food self-sufficiency. Indeed, the Nile plays a crucial role in Cairo’s economy. As mentioned by Abebe, 2014 the River provides almost 86% of Egypt’s freshwater for agriculture and benefits industrial production and sewage treatment.
However, it’s not all negative: the GERD could have numerous benefits on Sudan and Egypt. Tesfa’s research concludes that the GERD could remove up to 86% of silt and sedimentation, regulating the flow year-round and reducing flood risks.
Can we hope for cooperation? As we face the global issue of climate change and increasing population threats in countries such as Egypt, the need for regional cooperation rises. Water management issues demand cooperation between the Nile Basin states. Proposed adaptation strategies by Dr. El-Din suggest mutually beneficial adaptation strategies along the borders of the riparian countries, by the means of which water distribution corresponds to trade in water intensive goods, for example food and hydroelectricity. Cooperation could help everyone.
Bottom Line: The agriculturally dependent Egyptian society of Cairo faces food and water scarcity as unpredictable changes, due to the GERD, modify the flow of the River Nile.
* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂