01 March 2014

Nile Debate About Renaissance Elevates in International Media?

I spoke with a correspondent who works for Foreign Policy today about the ongoing issue in the Nile basin between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Renaissance Dam. The fact that Foreign Affairs is now covering this gives me hope that the coverage of this major project, from a year ago when there was not much to be had in the news at all about the dam, is changing. Since Former PM Morsi's statements last summer, and the following negotiations between Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia, the issue has amplified in the transparent side of international dialogue. I say transparent, because Nile issues are certainly on many government and large nongovernment agencies agenda, like the World Bank, just often behind closed doors.
The concern most journalists and researchers have about the dam is the international scope. What are the downstream impacts for Egypt? What is the environmental cost for the basin? What does this mean about the water budget? Yes, the Blue Nile accounts for a huge share of the Nile water and Sudan and Egypt's populations rely on this water to survive, but the governments also rely on this water for their GDPs. This is the case that I bring up when I speak with journalists. Why isn't anyone asking about Egypt's domestic water use? We are meant to think that this government is concerned with the Egyptian farmers when the families of displaced Nubians are still protesting the issue of compensation from Aswan decades later? I am not saying that the Egyptian government doesn't care about people, I am not in the position to make a judgment on that, but what I can judge is that Egypt is not talking about the total reason for fear and reaction to Ethiopia’s development. Egypt is not talking about threat to their cotton and palm plantations, the Western desert project to syphon waters from Lake Nasser out to the desert for more agricultural projects. Egypt is a top exporter of cotton in the global market - about 98% of the raw product goes to the developing world and more than half of that is exported to Europe as finished product. Cotton is only one high water intense agricultural product. It would be great to see a comprehensive assessment of Egypt's water budget through their agricultural export products.

Since it looks as though things are not being resolved in the negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, what will happen next? I have read articles suggesting a third party will be called in to evaluate. I am interested to see what the Foreign Policy article will read. As yet, there is not a ton of international coverage. Mostly, the reports are limited to special interest or regional press.

Some recent articles include:
a UPI article using WWII language about Egypt action against Ethiopia - but diplomatically couched.
al Jazeera hamming it up with their title - suggesting the countries are sparring.
World Bulletin put up a short story about the meetings in Cairo.
Al Monitor suggests Egypt is taking the issue to an international audience.
And the least reactive article from AllAfrica suggests officials are still working on negotiations