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Dividing The Nile - Ethiopia And Egypt Spar Over River Dam Project

Ethiopia and Egypt: who's doing all the paddling?
Ethiopia and Egypt: who's doing all the paddling?
Vincent Defait

ADDIS ABABA – On June 3, Egyptian politicians were caught in a televised diplomatic gaffe, which could have cost them dearly.

Invited by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to a debate on the $4.2 billion hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is about to start building across the Blue Nile, one of the two major tributaries of the Nile, the participants openly called for military action against Ethiopia.

They were unaware that the debate was being broadcast live on Egyptian state television and spoke their minds freely about allying with “Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti, to use them as bases against Ethiopia” and “interfering in the internal affairs of Ethiopia” by supporting rebel troops fighting the Ethiopian government.

All of this was said without drawing any objection from President Morsi. Though at the end of the debate, the Egyptian president did say that he would not engage in aggressive acts against Ethiopia. Still, a statement released later from his office said: “Egypt will never surrender its right to Nile ware and all options to safeguard it are being considered.” A difficult balancing act a week after Ethiopia announced that they had already started diverting the flow of Nile to prepare for the building of the dam.

[rebelmouse-image 27086961 alt="""" original_size="387x258" expand=1]

An overview rendition of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam - Source: salini

In the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, the government responded with polite silence. The spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dina Mufti, said they were “surprised” by the “hostile remarks.”

The standoff is two years in the making, when Addis Ababa announced the construction of what would become Africa’s biggest dam on the Blue Nile, which takes its source in the Ethiopian highlands. The dam will produce 6,000 megawatts – enough electricity for the 85 million Ethiopians, with some left over to sell to neighboring countries.

It was a decision that did not please Egypt, which for decades now has been used to enjoying the waters of the Nile without having to ask its neighbors for permission.

Becoming a developed nation

Indeed, Cairo has been challenging the project by waiving a 1929 agreement that gave Egypt and Sudan rights to the Nile water, with Egypt allowed to take 55.5 billion cubic meters out of 84 billion cubic meters in total.

The construction of Egypt’s Aswan Dam, inaugurated in 1971, allowed the formation of the Nasser Lake and the irrigation of about three million hectares of land. Egypt is worried that building their own dam, the Ethiopians risk drying up the part of the Nile that flows into Egypt. Not true, says Abdulhakim Mohammed, head of construction at the Ethiopian electricity company (EEEPCo): “Without the dam, the flow is very low during the dry period and very high during the monsoon, to the point of causing floods. The dam, which will not be used for irrigation purposes, will regulate the flow according to the needs of its users.”

In 2010, Egypt and Sudan refused to sign a cooperation agreement, which was signed by Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi. “They want to maintain the status quo,” says Debay Tedesse, a researcher at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) at Addis Ababa. “Under President Mubarak, Egyptians grew up hearing that the Nile is Egypt and Egypt is the Nile. It will take time to change that.

However, the hydrologists know that the Ethiopian dam will not have an impact on Egypt.” No chance it will start a Nile war then? “I doubt it, particularly because Egypt and Sudan cannot afford to get caught up in conflict over the Nile given their current internal problems,” says the researcher. “Countries that border the Nile should sign an agreement on the sharing of its waters. The Nile can meet the needs of everybody.”

No matter what the Egyptian politicians say, there is no chance that Ethiopia will renounce its mega-dam. The dam is the backbone of a massive plan to pull out the country of its current state of underdevelopment. Companies, civil servants and private individuals were all forced to pitch in to finance the costly project. Egypt can make as much noise and as many diplomatic gaffes as it wants, diggers are not about to stop digging, and the concrete mixers mixing – Ethiopia needs to become a developed nation.

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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