Nile reason for conflict in Africa?
The Nile River has long been synonymous with Egypt, flowing past the gargantuan Aswan Dam, the Great Pyramids at Giza and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. However, the ownership of this mighty source of fresh water is heavily disputed, leading to tremendous tension between the countries of the Nile River Basin, primarily, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. Despite flowing through ten countries in Africa, a British Treaty signed in 1959 divides ownership of the Nile between Egypt and Sudan. The role of the river and its disputed ownership may have catastrophic consequences if action is not taken to fairly and sustainably distribute ownership of the Nile between the nations of the Nile River Basin.
Tension along the Nile River is primarily due to Egypt’s hostile reaction to the actions of upriver nations, primarily Ethiopia and Sudan. The Nile River is the lifeblood of Egyptian cotton farming and agriculture; every year, massive amounts of water are diverted for irrigation purposes. However, in Ethiopia alone, there are over 80 million water deprived inhabitants who are not legally permitted to use the waters of the Nile for irrigation or any other form of diversion. The creation of dams is also tightly regulated in order to ensure that Egypt retains the same rate of water flow. This limits the use of hydroelectricity in nations other than Egypt, something that could be a powerful force in the fight against poverty in Ethiopia. It might seem overdramatic to assume that hydro politics along the Nile could result in war, however it’s important to remember that without the waters of the Nile, Egypt and Sudan are virtually bereft of any source of fresh water. If upriver nations restrict this flow through irrigation, damming or drinking, desperation and drought could drive Egypt and Sudan into using military force. The scarcity of fresh water within areas of the Nile River Basin has been exacerbated by Climate Change which has resulted in irregular and reduced rainfall for countries close to the source of the Nile.
It appears that the countries composing the Nile River Basin are no longer willing to tolerate Egypt and Sudan’s monopoly of the waters of the Nile River. Political instability, war, famine and poverty have become a daily hardship for Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, further discord could tear these countries apart. In order to avoid a disastrous and bloody conflict, the nations along the Nile River must come to terms with the fact that the Nile is a shared resource, harmony through fair and proportional distribution is the most prosperous option. Of further consideration is the sustainable use of the Nile’s fresh water. Currently, the health of the wetland ecosystems along the Nile River and the water itself is abominable. Irrigation is a tremendously wasteful method of farming that reduces the flow of the river and often pollutes the water with fertilisers. Furthermore, damming results in considerable erosion downriver as the required silt builds up behind the dam wall. While the nations of the Nile River Basin bicker, irreparable ecological damage occurs on a daily basis, a solution has to be found soon to ensure the Nile River retains a small measure of its majesty.
Author: Alexander Burns – Australia
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