15 February 2016

Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan Ask for More Information for Renaissance Dam Deal

News highlights the fact that the three countries of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan who have been in negotiations about the Renaissance Dam since 2013, recently rejected a current agreement presented by a French consultancy. The three countries agree that they need more information and are asking for it. This is prudent, in my opinion.

The process of figuring out just how to do something that has never been done before, as is the case in the construction of the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River that provides water resources shared by the three countries, is a step-by-step process. These negotiations are continuing over years, years within which leadership and diplomacy has changed in the three countries, where economic priorities have shifted, where cultural needs and dynamics have shifted, and where water and energy needs have also altered - the resulting continued dialogue must be colored by these external factors.

Perhaps the title of this article is less that the three countries failed to sign something, but that the countries are asking for more time and information before making a commitment.

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan fail to sign the Nile River deal

A section of Ethiopia's controversial n Renaissance Dam. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have declined to sign the contract presented by the French companies assigned to conduct studies on the impact of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the upstream countries of the Nile River.
The technical committee of the three countries failed to agree on the contract presented by the two consultancy firms after a five days meeting ended on Thursday night in Khartoum.
The three countries said in a brief joint statement that they had discussed the technical proposals, including the financial obligations.
The statement added that the three countries agreed to meet again to finalise the agreement and sign the contract.
The proposal
Meanwhile, the Sudanese Electricity and Water Resources minister, Mr Mutaz Musa, told the Africa Review after the meeting that the three states agreed to seek more consultations.
He explained that the Khartoum meeting had discussed the proposal by the French companies and each country now needed to discuss the details alone.
''The three countries need to conduct more consultations from within then the contract will be ready to be signed,'' he said.
Water quota
The ministers from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia met in Khartoum to examine the joint technical proposal submitted by the French Artelia and BRL companies.
The Egyptian Irrigation minister, Mr Husam Moghazi, had earlier indicated that the meeting was crucial, adding that the studies on the Nile should be completed this year.
The three countries have agreed to conduct two additional studies: the first one on the effects on the water quota for Sudan and Egypt and the second on environmental, economic and social impacts of the dam on Sudan and Egypt.

08 February 2016

Egypt Withdraws from East African Power Pool

Egypt reportedly has made an official withdrawal from negotiations with East African Power Pool partners - mostly Nile basin countries - due to concerns over development of the internationally shared Nile River water resources. The East African Power Pool or EAPP is an organization of regional neighboring countries to connect their power grid. The idea is to replicate electric power sharing that occurs in other parts of the world - such as with the USA and Canada or across European borders. The EAPP has development plans that include running new power lines, transformers, and hydropower projects. The Egyptians did not sign a document securing plans, but it appears that the plans will be implemented even without the Egyptians signature.

The power lines and cooperation are necessary for the establishment of consumer markets for electricity generated in the region, for instance the 6,000MW that will come online from the Renaissance Dam, some portion of which will start in 2017. This can prove problematic for many reasons, including for the Renaissance Dam peaceful construction, filling, and management. The headquarters of these body will be located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is not clear if there will be further negotiations, but I hope that this is a temporary withdrawal by Egypt from the conversation.


Egypt resigns from EAPP until concerns over Nile are resolved

Egypt has withdrawn itself from the East African Power Pool (EAPP) due to concerns around member states looking to develop hydropower plants along the Nile River.

The East African reported that the north African country turned down the document to adopt the master plan for the EAPP’s hydropower projects in Ethiopia and Sudan, which are both located along the Nile River.

Adopting the master plan

The ten member states including, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Libya and Uganda, gathered a Council of Ministers’ meeting in Addis Ababa recently to officially adopt this plan.
Lebi Changullah, secretary-general of the EAPP, said that the master plan, which has already been adopted by the member states, will be implemented despite Egypt’s concerns.
“I don’t think Egypt’s refusal to sign the document will affect the implementation of the master plan because it has been approved by the rest of the members,” Changullah said.
He added that those countries dependent on the Nile River have signed a treaty with Egypt on equitable use of the Nile waters, The East African reported.
“Egypt’s concerns on the River Nile will be addressed by the Nile Initiative, but that will not stop countries from proceeding with their plans,” he added.
The EAPP master plan will act as a blueprint for regional power integration over the next 25 years.

Interconnection of member states

The master plan includes the construction of transmission lines, which will be implemented between 2016 and 2017 and commissioned by 2020, The East African reported.
“The lines include Sudan-Ethiopia; Rwanda-Tanzania; Uganda-South Sudan and Uganda-Kenya. The Libya-Egypt and Egypt-Sudan interconnections will wait until Egypt’s concerns are addressed,” media reported.
Egypt has raised concerns over the interruption of water supply to its agricultural sector, which relies solely on the Nile for water. The countries concerns extend to include the construction of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile, as it will significantly cut the flow for its rapidly increasing population, The East African reported.

Egypt has pulled out of the grand East African regional power pool until its concerns over the use of the Nile waters have been addressed.
In the recent Council of Ministers' meeting in Addis Ababa held by the 10 Eastern African Power Pool (EAPP) countries, Egypt refused to sign and adopt the master plan for the power pool as the hydropower generation projects in Ethiopia and Sudan are on the Nile.
The 10 countries are Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Libya and Uganda.
According to Lebi Changullah, the secretary-general of the EAPP, the master plan, which has already been adopted by the member states, will be implemented despite Egypt's protest.
"I don't think Egypt's refusal to sign the document will affect the implementation of the master plan because it has been approved by the rest of the members," said Mr Changullah, adding that the countries relying on the Nile are independent and have signed a treaty with Egypt on equitable use of the Nile waters.
"Egypt's concerns on the River Nile will be addressed by the Nile Initiative, but that will not stop countries from proceeding with their plans," he added.
The regional power pool master plan adopted by the other nine countries will be the guiding tool for regional power integration for the next 25 years.
As per the master plan, power interconnection lines will be implemented between 2016 and 2017 and will be commissioned by 2020. The lines include Sudan-Ethiopia; Rwanda-Tanzania; Uganda-South Sudan and Uganda-Kenya. The Libya-Egypt and Egypt-Sudan interconnections will wait until Egypt's concerns are addressed.
Egypt, which relies almost exclusively on the Nile for farming, industry and domestic use, is opposed to the construction of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile as it will significantly cut the flow for its rapidly increasing population.
About 55 per cent of the 6,000MW dam is being built by Italy's largest construction firm, Salini Impregilo Spa. Egypt's main concern since construction of the dam started in 2011 is its high storage capacity, which reaches 74 billion cubic metres, and how this will affect its national water security.

The EAPP master plan identifies power interconnection and generation in the member states and the countries have accepted the resolutions except Egypt, which is a member of the North African association of power utilities -- the "Comité Maghrébin de l'Electricité (COMELEC)" -- which was established in 1989.
Under the master plan, a number of transmission and generation projects have been identified as key to the integration of the power sectors in the EAPP, according to sources.
This means that EAPP countries will have their power lines connected to the larger power pool, whose headquarters will be in Addis Ababa.
The EAPP is being supported by the US government, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the region's governments.
Under the Tripartite Free Trade arrangement, a regional power market linking EAPP and the Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP) is envisaged. It is estimated that about a quarter of the electricity generated in EAPP countries comes from hydropower, with future investments creating a greater dependence on the resource.
The power interconnections between Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania are expected to be complete in three years. Under the EAPP, a high-voltage line between Ethiopia and Kenya will be ready in 2017, a Kenya-Uganda link will be complete by the end of 2016, and a Kenya-Tanzania connection will be ready in 2018.
Relies on renewable energy
The Kenya-Ethiopia link will be a 500 kilovolt (kV) line, while the lines to Uganda and Tanzania will be 400kV. The line to Uganda will connect to Rwanda and Burundi.
Kenya, which relies heavily on hydropower, geothermal and other renewable energy sources, plans to expand installed capacity to 6,700MW by 2017, from about 2,500MW currently. Tanzania aims to double generation to 3,000MW by 2016.
Ethiopia aims to become a major power exporter through large new dams and other renewable energy projects. By 2020, it aims to add 12,000MW to its grid.
Other African regions like West Africa have already connected their grids. Southern Africa has a series of links between South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, allowing the countries to trade power.

04 February 2016

Speculation Continues Over Renaissance Dam as Filling Date Approaches

One year away from the commencement of reservoir filling, experts are still debating the schedule, use, and viability of the Renaissance Dam for regional stability and water security. While outsiders look at the Nile basin, its booming population, its poverty, and its vast resources much confusion remains about what this project means. For the Ethiopians the dam will triple domestic electricity generation, making it possible to electrify well beyond the current <45% of the 90 million population. For Egypt, a loss of a close to 100 year treaty enforced control of a river. For Sudan, further economic development. What does Sudan's development plans have to do with Egypt? The more water Sudan uses, the less flows to Egypt. A need for a comprehensive basin-wide development plan is huge.

In a previous post, I presented an article about foreign direct investment in Sudan's agricultural infrastructure. Currently, Sudan is under-developed compared to its potential. Do you ever wonder where these potentials and investment strategies come from? I think typically people accept projections without questioning too much. Economists tend to be quite confident about their speculations, for instance, the World Bank has a reputation for producing studies that are then used by governments the world over to make national economic decisions. Is there a peer review process for the World Bank? Any checks and balances? Any way to really know if they are doing their due diligence or are hiring appropriate "experts" or are giving enough time and attention to resulting huge investments? The Bank is a bank - bottom line for any bank is to invest in something with a return. Why would anyone want a return from the world's poorest communities? 

In exchange for...?

02 February 2016

Film Screening: Written on Water documentary about Texas ag and the Ogallala Aquifer

Trailer for the new Written on Water documentary covers issues of cotton and grain farming in the Texas high plains, made possible by pulling from the Ogallala Aquifer. This aquifer ranges from Texas all the way up to South Dakota and has made central USA agricultural livelihoods possible (including corporations such as the infamous bad practices company, Monsanto). The aquifer is also ancient and is not being replenished while it is being drawn, leading to "drying up" in places like Kansas. A need for deeper wells, disastrous land subsidence, and a myriad of related problems over the years including drought, see the famous Dust Bowl that pushed people from Oklahoma all the way to California (where they took up similar unsustainable agricultural practices) are only some of the related casualties from unsustainable water use. There is so much intensification of agriculture on the Ogallala that anyone dependent on it is insecure. It is great to see a film created to cover this important and timely issue.

This situation reminds me of a similar attitude toward the mighty herds of bison that once were plentiful in the hundreds of thousands on these same plains. A few men came in and hunted those herds to oblivion. The attitude and practice of the people, without any governance or regulation in this part of the world, seems to want to lead to the same end with the water. Make your money, use it up to the last drop, split. The story repeats itself over and over again.

The screening for this film will take place on 4 February in Lubbock, Texas - a town that is the central economic and political seat for agricultural communities throughout the region. Dr. Michael Campana from Oregon State University will be part of a panel discussion about the situation.
The screenings will also take place in Golden, CO on the 18 February and Washington, DC on 20 March. The filmmaker is Merri Lisa Trigilio a geoscientist and documentarian.

Many people have relied on exploiting water from beneath the now non-existent peat formations in this part of Texas and after some generations, the future looks bleak. The film touches upon the situation, the unsustainable nature of this type of land and water resources exploitation, and the fate of those who live and rely on this practice for their livelihoods.

In places like the Great Plains where overdrawing the aquifer, reducing water availability, making it more and more expensive to reach the fast depleting resources, as well as compacting the soils with large farm equipment, and exhausting the soils with over-planting, artificial chemical treating, fertilizing have a limited lifetime of viable return. Over the years the family farms have been lost to economic hardship, corporate interests (read: greed), and homogenized crops (soy bean, cotton, corn). Where will this lead us? The United States is still considered food secure. I'd like to see those projections taking in the realities, perhaps now considered externalities or projections, of losing both the Ogallala and the California outputs. Water is often not taken into account when foods are labeled sustainable or organic or any other "environmentally safe" labeling. We need to reconsider and massively overhaul our thinking about water in agriculture.