Saturday, January 8, 2011

Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia: the Nile River Disputes


Water governance in Nile Basin and its impact on economic development are the key issues discussed in this case study. Three eastern Nile riparian countries, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have been in conflict over Nile water allocation since colonial period. The 1929 Water Agreement (G) signed under the control of Britain and the 1959 Water Treaty (G) secured most of Nile water (Q) for Egypt and Sudan, with Egypt getting lion share. Although a regional collaborative organization – the Nile Basin Initiative (G)- has been in operation since 1999, the movements toward a new Cooperative Framework Agreement is slow, preventing riparian countries to fully utilize their water resources for agricultural and hydropower development (C). Here we find that the real outstanding issue posing a formidable challenge to any breakthrough in Nile riparian cooperation is, indeed, the status quo insisted by Egypt and Sudan via the predominant colonial-era treaty regime. To arrive at a regional consensus on a Cooperative Framework Agreement, the legitimacy of this status quo should be challenged. In addition, the current positional bargain over water quantity should be switched to principle-based negotiation. The added economic value through basin-wide full cooperation can probably drive this change.

Questions Addressed and Wisdom Gained

The key questions addressed in this case study are: 1) What is the history of water governance over Nile Basin that caused the current status quo deadlock? 2) What can drive the change from positional bargain to principle based negotiation? Egypt needs to soften its stance over its historic water rights and seek for more efficient use of its existing water, while Ethiopia needs to look for developments that benefit its downstream neighbors. The Nile Basin Dispute illustrates that historical unfair water treaty can be the largest obstacle towards collaboration within a river basin. Governance, reflected by economic and military power, can overrun other variables in determining the outcome.

1.    Issue(s), stakeholders and relevant NSS variables for this case study

Variables Involved
Hydropolitics and Water Governance
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia
Quantity (Q)
Governance and Institutions (G)
Economy (C)
Irrigation and Hydropower  Economy
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia
Quantity (Q)
Governance and Institutions (G)
Economy (C)

2.    Description of the Setting

Being the longest river in the world, the Nile wanders for 6,825 kilometers through ten countries in the northeastern Africa – Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire / Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. It has two major tributaries – the White Nile and the Blue Nile, which converge at Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The Blue Nile, which suffers high seasonal fluctuations, originates from “water tower” highlands in Ethiopia and flows about 1400km before it reaches Khartoum. It provides 86% of the yearly Nile flow. The White Nile springs from Burundi. It is fed by eternal snows of Ruwenzori Mountain in western Uganda as well as the Lake Victoria and other smaller equatorial lakes. The White Nile, however, accounts for only 14% of yearly flow, partly because the White Nile loses a considerable amount of water to the vast swamp in southern Sudan – the Sudd, and then to evaporation as it flows northward into the arid regions of Sudan (Swain 2002).

The Nile basin has two types of climates. The northern part, where the Sudan and Egypt lie, has virtually no rainfall in the summer. In contrast, the southern part, which encompasses the Ethiopian Plateau, has heavy rains during the summer months. During the season between October and May both regions are relatively dry. The annual rainfall data of the three countries are shown in Table 1.

About 360 million people were estimated to live in the Nile Basin. There are 25 large cities with more than 100,000 people. The Nile delta is home to almost all Egypt’s 78 million people. Although the current water supply per person is ample, the Nile Basin is predicted to face water scarcity caused by explosion of population (Revenga et al. 2000). It is estimated that by 2025, Egypt’s population will reach 97.3 million in 2025, up from 62.9 in 1995. Ethiopia’s population will probably surpass Egypt and reach 127 million in 2025, up from 55 million in 1995; Sudan’s population is also expected to increase from 28 million in 1995 to 58 million in 2025 (Swain 2002).

Fig 1 Map of Nile River Basin  Source: (Swain 1997)

Table 1 Basic Information on Nile River Basin
River Basin
Nile River Basin
Northeastern Africa
Riparian countries:
Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire / Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt
Main Tributaries
White Nile contributes to 14% of yearly flow; Blue Nile contributes 84%
Population (3)
360 million
Area (2)
Annual Flow  (1)
The annual flow of the Nile has declined at Aswan in Egypt: 1,100 billion cubic meters (BCM) during 1870-99, 84 BCM during 1899-1954, and 81 BCM during 1954-96;
Per capita water supply (4)
2,207 m3/person/year in 1995
Annual Rainfall
410mm at a tiny northern strip, 2-5 mm south of Cairo
Economic Factor

GDP (2007)
GDP growth (annual %)
Two treaties signed in 1929 and 1959 between Egypt and Sudan
Negotiation Period
1929 - Now
Top uses of water
Agriculture, Hydropower
Military Supremacy
Egypt > Ethiopia > Sudan
Militaristic Conflict
1956-1958 disputes, Sudan unilaterally declare non-adherence to 1929 Agreement, Egyptian Army units were moved to the boarder to show force;
Source: 1.(Swain 1997) 2. (Wolf and Newton 1999) 3. (WWF 2007) 4. (Wong 2007)

3.    Problem Definition

The conflicts over Nile are highly related to hydropolitics, which dominates the governance of Nile. During Colonial period, water allocation is controlled by 1929 Water Agreement between Egypt and Sudan, both of which were colonized by Britain. To assure its economic interests of cotton plantation business in Egypt and Sudan, Britain denied any upstream development that would possibly alter the flow of Nile. Egypt got most of Nile water and Sudan obtained a small amount. All other riparian countries were excluded from the negotiation. The revised 1959 Water Treaty allocated some more water to Sudan, but remained exclusive to other riparian countries. Under the influence of Cold War, Egypt was able to secure most of its water resources due to its special geopolitical position. During the same period, Sudan was entangled in civil wars, while Ethiopia was troubled by border wars, communist overthrow, and famines. The current regime of Nile Basin has been moving towards regional collaboration, since the founding of Nile Basin Initiative in 1999. However, Egypt and Sudan are insisting on their historic rights over the Nile (status quo), hampering the progress of regional collaboration.

Water governance directly affects the economic development of riparian countries. Egypt has almost fully developed its irrigable land and hydropower capacity, while Ethiopia has the biggest potential to develop its water resources. This section is also going to explore the agriculture and hydropower economy of the three countries.

3.1 Hydropolitics and Water Governance

Colonial Period (1880s-1950s)
The Nile River disputes among riparian countries started when European colonial powers penetrated the African continent and created their zones of influence. British controlled Egypt from 1882 to 1937, and Sudan from 1899 to 1956, while Italy penetrated into Ethiopia (Swain 1997). Britain signed several agreements with Italy, Ethiopia, the Congo Free State and France from 1891 to 1925 to make sure that no upstream irrigation projects were developed to impede the flow of the Nile. The major interest of Britain over Nile during this period is their cotton plantation in Egypt and Sudan. The legal states of these agreements were uncertain and complicated due to the changing political influence of the colonial powers in the region (Swain 1997).

In 1929, the British High Commission and Egypt signed an Exchange of Notes Regarding the Use of the Waters of the Nile for Irrigation of 1929 (Nile Waters Agreement), which gave Egypt the lion share of Nile waters. Egypt was assured a minimum of 48 BCM of water per year, as against 4 billion for Sudan, then under the ruling of Anglo-Egyptian Condominium. The agreement further stipulated that ‘no works were to be constructed on the Nile or its tributaries or the equatorial lakes, so far as they were under British jurisdiction, which would alter the flows entering Egypt without her prior approval’ (Swain 1997). This gave Egypt veto power of any upstream development of Nile waters. Although no other riparian countries signed the agreement, the Nile Waters Agreement of 1929 was actually able to regulate the water allocation in the region for 30 years.

Table 2 Water Allocation in 1929 Nile Waters Agreement

Allocated Amount
Unutilized Amount
48 BCM
32 BCM
Source: (Wolf and Newton 1999)

Post Colonial and Cold War Influence (1950s – 1990s)
Egypt got her independence from colonization in 1937, Sudan in 1956 and Ethiopia in 1944. Even though, the region had still been under deep influence of the power of western countries, especially the two super powers during the Cold War. The domestic political instability made the formation of international water regime even more difficult.

Ismail al-Azhari, the first Prime Minister of Sudan after its independence in 1956, reiterated that the 1929 Nile Waters Agreement should be revised. During the same period, Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt was proposing the massive Aswan Dam project, which was opposed by Sudan. The next three years witnessed the tension between Egypt and Sudan, which further deteriorated when Sudan unilaterally declared its non-adherence to the 1929 Agreement. Egypt withdrew a previous plan of helping Sudan to build a reservoir at Roseires and moved its army to the territory in dispute between the two countries as a show of force (Swain 1997).

The military regime headed by General Ibrahim Abboud took the power of Sudan in 1958 and softened its stance towards Egypt. In 1959, Egypt and Sudan concluded the Agreement for the Full Utilization of the Nile Waters (Nile Waters Treaty 1959) to replace the 1929 Agreement. The 1959 Treaty was built upon the two states’ “acquired rights” under the 1929 Treaty and therefore highly favorable to Egypt. It mainly allocated the remaining water that was not apportioned in the 1929 Agreement, giving Egypt 55.5 BCM in total and Sudan 18.5 BCM. Other riparian countries, notably Ethiopia, were excluded from the negotiation process. This second bilateral treaty stipulated that the combined needs of other riparian countries would not exceed 1-2 BCM. The 1959 Treaty provided Egypt with the security it needed to construct the Aswan High Dam and established a political basis to construct the long-envisioned Jonglei Canal. Since the 1959 Treaty, Egypt maintained a friendly relationship with Sudan for about two decades, until the fall of Sudanese President Numayri in1985. Numayri was criticized by Sudanese nationalists that his reconcile on Aswan High Dam and Jonglei Canal was a gift to Egypt, as a return for Egypt’s support on his ruling.

Table 3 Table 2 Water Allocation in 1959 Nile Waters Treaty; Source: (Wolf and Newton 1999)

Allocated Amount
Evaporation lost
55.5 BCM
10 BCM
18.5 BCM

The construction of Aswan High Dam started in 1960, immediately after Egypt and Sudan signed the 1959 Water Treaty. During planning stage of the Aswan High Dam, both the US and the USSR were interested in funding the project to penetrate their influences into the Middle East and northern African. The US has its interests in Suez Canal, through which the oil from the Middle East was transported, while the USSR was trying to assimilate communist campaign members in Africa. Nasser, at the beginning, tried to present himself as a tactical neutralist and sought to work with both the US and the USSR. The raid by Israel against Egypt in Gaza in 1955 pushed Nasser to seek assistance from the US for weapons. However, the conditions posed by the then president Eisenhower were not accepted by Nasser and he turned to the USSR for support. The USSR offered Nasser a quantity of arms through Czechoslovakia. Seeing this, the US sought to improve relations with Nasser and offered $56 million fund towards the construction of the Aswan High Dam (together with $14 million by UK). However, other western Allies in Middle East were irritated by the benefits Egypt obtained through standing neutral. And later, the US was unhappy with Egypt’s recognition of newly formed communist China. The US and the UK withdrew the funding for Aswan High Dam shortly after USSR’s $1.12 billion loan to Egypt. Soon after US’ denial on Aswan Dam, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. There was some evidence that Nasser had decided to nationalize the Canal long before the US denied the funding, but the denial was said to precipitate the progress (Time Megazine 1956){Merging Citations}.

The Jonglei Canal was planned to bring more water from White Nile to Egypt. It was designed to divert White Nile’s water before it entered into the Sudd, the vast swamp in Southern Sudan. The excavation work of the Canal started in 1978, without any environmental impact assessments. The construction work discontinued in 1983 because of the Sudanese civil war, leaving a deserted ditch on the landscape. In 2008, the Sudanese and Egyptian governments decided to resume the work on the Canal (Ahmad 2008). The Canal is expected to reduce the inflow to the Sudd by 50%. There will be expected damages falling on southern Sudan, both ecologically and economically. People who rely on fishng and grazing near the Sudd will be most heavily impacted.

After the 1959 Treaty, with the increase of contentions, Nile riparian countries have attempted to establish cooperative initiatives since the late 1960s. Examples include the Hhydromet in 1967, the Undugu in 1983, and the TeccoNile in 1992. The achievements of these initiatives were limited because they did not include all riparian countries and they only focused on technical issues while avoiding legal challenges (Cascão 2009).

Current Regime of Nile Basin (1990s – 2010)

In 1999, the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) was launched, bringing all ten nations of the basin into a joint body. It was a path breaking step towards collaboration. NBI seeks to develop the river in a cooperative manner, share substantial socioeconomic benefits, and promote regional peace and security. The NBI started with a participatory process of dialogue among the riparian countries. It resulted in a mutual agreement on a shared vision—to “achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources.” Over the last decade, the Nile Riparians have been striving to work out a draft Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), which is hoped to provide the basin with a permanent legal and institutional framework to realize the shared vision.

Although the joint fact finding mechanism has been available for 21 years, the negotiation process has been sluggish. Egypt and Sudan continue to object to upstream states’ attempts to secure equitable allocation of the Nile water by requesting of revision on Article 4 of the CFA. According to Article 4, “Nile basin states agree in a spirit of cooperation, not to significantly affect the water security of any other Nile basin states.” Egypt and Sudan, on the other hand, want it amended to reflect their historic rights as such, ”Nile basin states agree, in a spirit of cooperation, not to adversely affect the water security and current uses and rights of any other Nile basin states.” Mekonnen analyzed the conflict resulted from the concept of “water security” introduced in CFA, which has driven the negotiation process to an “unwarranted detour to a dead end” (Mekonnen 2010). He argued from the viewpoint of international law that the status quo has no legitimate basis.

Before 1990, Ethiopia was considered a “silent partner” in Nile hydropolitics (Waterbury 2002). After Meles Zenawi came into power in 1991, Ethiopia started its move towards unilateral development on Blue Nile. There were a good amount of microdams built in the highlands. A large-scale hydropower dam, the Tekezze Dam, was also built on the Tekezze-Atbara River (Cascão 2009). These developments were made possible partly due to favorable construction contracts and funding offered by China. The signal is clear. Ethiopia has been determinate to challenge the status quo of Nile water allocation. In addition, it was successful in allying other upstream riparian countries to isolate both Egypt and Sudan in their defense of “historic rights” over Nile water. On May 14, 2010, Ethiopia, ganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya signed new agreement to divvy up the some 84 BCM of water in the Nile (Harrell 2010). Both Egypt and Sudan did not recognize the agreement and they refused to consider and approve NBI’s workplan and budget year for fiscal year 2010/2011 (NBI website).  

Sudan, once Egypt’s hydropolitical ally in the Basin, may yet easily become the biggest challenge to the current hydropolitical regime (Cascão 2009). In 2001, a strong new water institution – the Dams Implementation Unit (DIU) was initiated in Sudan. It is a separate entity from the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources (MIWR), and supervised directly by President Bashir himself and a selective “High Political Committee”. This Unit appears to have privileged relations with China, the Gulf states, international consultants and construction companies. It is not clear whether Egyptian government can have the same power of leverage over the DIU as was exercised over the MIWR (Cascão 2009). Now, what makes the situation more complicated is the extremely unstable political environment in Sudan. Intranational tension is building up recently over the January Referendum, which is an item settled in peace accord in 2005 after 21 years of civil war between the Muslim north and the Christian and animist south. According to January Referendum, the southerners are going to vote whether to remain united with northern Sudan or form an independent country on January 9, 2011. (Varner 2010)

3.2  Agriculture and Hydropower Economy in Nile River Basin

The Nile south of Aswan is one of the least developed rivers in the world. It has numerous opportunities for developments that would alleviate poverty and promote economic development. As seen from Table 1 below, other than Egypt, all other nine riparian countries have enormous potential for irrigation and hydropower development (Swain 2002).

Table 4 Irrigation and Hydropower Potential of Nile Basin Countries

By building Aswan High Dam, Egypt obtained a lot of economic benefits over the last four decades. The High Dam saved Egypt from devastating floods, which resulted in loss of summer harvests, damage to infrastructure, and loss of life. Egypt was able to reclaim about 4.8 million square meters of arable land to increase rice and sugar cane production substantially. Moreover, the Aswan High Dam generates an average of 8 billion kWh for industry and the electrification of all towns and villages in Egypt. Finally, the Dam also facilitates navigation up and down the Nile all year round. The overall economic benefits of Aswan High Dam to Egypt is estimated to be EGP 7.1 billion per year (equivalent to USD 1.2 billion per year), which is about 2.7% of GDP in 1997 (Strzepek 2007). Since the late 1990s, three major horizontal expansion projects have been carried out: the West Delta Irrigation Project, the North Sinai Agriculture Development Project, and the South Valley / Toshka Development Project, all of which aim to reclaim thousands of hectares of land. Despite of some groundwater utilization and recycling efforts, immense amount of water would be taken from the Nile. This is comprehended by other riparian countries in the Basin as an Egypt’s attempt to put more facts on the ground to cement its “historic rights” to the Nile water (Cascão 2009).

Sudan did not have much capacity to utilize its allocated 18.5 BCM/yr Nile water before 1990s. The unclaimed water had been taken by Egypt for granted. However, as mentioned above, Sudan has started a strong water institution and created coherent water policies. The 2005 Peace Accord made a favorable environment for foreign investments, especially on oil exploitation – mainly by Chinese companies. Sudan was able to develop its economy in the past several years. Two major projects was built under the support of China and Gulf states. The first was the large-scale Merowe Dam Project completed in 2009 and the second is the ongoing heightening of the old Roseires Dam, started at the end of 2008. These projects did exceed the 18.5 BCM/yr allocation, but generated high level of concerns in Egypt. However, the future of Sudan is very uncertain. If the Civil War resumed after the January Referendum, any discussion of economic benefits of Nile water utilization would be meaningless.

Being the “water tower” of Africa contributing 85% of Nile’s water, Ethiopia has the largest potential of irrigation and hydropower development in Nile Basin, but only 1% of its water resources have been utilized so far. A growing food deficit, rising population, and frequent drought conditions require Ethiop’s development of its untapped irrigable land and hydropower potential.

Ethiopia’s poverty striking economy is based heavily on agriculture, which accounts for about 45% of GDP, and 85% of total employment. However, the limitations of the status quo water treaties have left Ethiopia over-dependent on rain-fed agriculture, which is vulnerable to drought and flood. In addition, up to 2009, less than 10% of Ethiopia had access of electricity and the country was troubled by frequent power outages. To overcome this situation, the country has embarked on an aggressive dam plan. The Five-Year Plan announced early this year includes a lofty goal of increasing power capacity from 2 GW to 10 GW in five years. Some of these dams have irrigation function. With that pace of development (called “hydro boom” by some media), Ethiopia would not be able to domestically absorb as much as generated, reinforcing the need for securing energy trade contracts with neighboring countries prior to extensive development.

Ethiopia needs huge amount of funding to build and operate these planned dams. Construction and operation cost itself is substantial, while resettlement and environmental costs add on the burden. Among the poorest countries in the world, Ethiopia relies heavily on international support. However, Egypt has been pressuring international institutions not to assist Ethiopia in carrying out development projects in the Nile Basin. It hampers Ethiopia’s access to funding, which is likely to slow down the dam building program.

Recently, as part of the NBI, investment planning has begun to be examined from a more cooperative, regional perspective. If cooperative investment projects are carried out, the riparians could move closer to achieving system-wide, economically optimal management of the Nile. Whittington et al made an analysis over the economic value of this kind of regional cooperation (Whittington, Wu, and Sadoff 2005). They looked at how changes in water availability, through changes in water management strategy, would affect the cumulative value of water in the whole system. Their analysis assumed value of water for irrigation is $ 0.05/m3 and the value for hydropower is $ 0.08/m3. Moreover, they considered the scenario in which all projects proposed by the riparian countries as full cooperation and the scenario in which nothing would be done as status quo. Their model shows that the net economic value realized by full cooperation is $ 4.94 billion annually, which is more than the total economic benefits realized at present for the status quo conditions for the whole basin. Ethiopia will get most out of full cooperation, while Egypt can also benefit from the cooperation.

Table 6 Total Economic Value of Cooperation: Status Quo versus Full Cooperation
Source: (Whittington, Wu, and Sadoff 2005)

4.    Variable Identification

The Natural Societal Domain (NSD) variables in Nile Basin case study and their interactions have evolved with the power succession in the region. During colonial period, Britain was the major governing power (G) that determines the water quantity allocation (Q) and economic development (C). Post colonial period witnessed the penetration of cold war influence into the region, which reinforced the water regime (G) created by the British. The benign relationship between Egypt and Sudan during this period led to the 1959 Water Treaty (G), which redistributed Nile water (Q) between the two countries and reinforced their rights over the water. The 1959 Water Treaty also made the Aswan High Dam and Jonglei Canal possible. Both large-scale projects would have significant impacts on local environment (E) and economy (C). In the last two decades, water regime in Nile Basin has shifted from bi-lateral conversation towards multilateral negotiations, with the participation of Ethiopia and Equatorial countries. The Nile Basin Initiative performs as a platform to form a new water regime (G) in the Basin. Once consensus is achieved over the Cooperative Framework Agreement (G), it will have direct or indirect impacts on all six NSD variables.

4.1  Colonial Period Water Regime

In 1882, the British occupied Egypt, not only for the important Suez Canal, but also for the raw cotton (C) it could get from Egypt. In the early 1900s, the British government began to promote cotton cultivation in Egypt and Sudan, then under Anglo-Egypian ruling. During this period, Britain was able to solely control water governance in the region, by signing the bi-lateral 1929 Water Agreement (G) with Egypt, allocating 48 BCM water per year to Egypt and 4 BCM to Sudan (Q). All other riparian countries got nothing from the Agreement. Moreover, the Agreement gave Egypt veto power over upstream development that would alter Nile flow. The water regime formed during colonial period had far-reaching impacts. It was not only the foundation for post-colonial water regime, but also the “historic rights” that Egypt and Sudan hold to maintain status quo in negotiations today.

Fig 2 Nile Basin Regime under 1929 Water Agreement

4.2  Post-colonial Water Regime

During the period before and after World War II, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia got their independence. I define the period after their independence and before 1990 as post-colonial period. The main reason is that water allocation did not differ much from the colonial era agreement. Immediately after its independence in 1956, Sudan put forwards its strong request of more Nile water. The next three years witnessed the tension between Egypt and Sudan. The Sudanese domestic power succession opened the window for renegotiation over Nile. The 1959 Water Treaty (G) was achieved, with both countries getting more Nile water (Q). This, again, was a bi-lateral treaty without consent from other riparian countries. During this period, two super powers – US and USSR – had emerged and started penetrating their influences (V) into Nile Basin. Egypt used diplomatic strategies to reinforce its “historic rights” through the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Additionally, the proposal of Jonglei Canal was agreed by the then Sudanese political leader, who hoped to get Egypt’s support on his ruling. Many nationalists and southerners opposed this project, not only because they perceived it as a treasonable act (V) but also because of detrimental impacts it would have on the ecosystem in the Sudd (E) and Southern Sudan’s Economy (C).

Fig 3 Nile Basin Regime under 1959 Water Treaty

4.3  NBI or Post-NBI Era Water Regime

The current Nile Basin water regime is more complicated than ever. With Ethiopia and Equatorial countries’ emerging demand over Nile, a basin wide collaborative platform – the Nile Basin Initiative – was formed, with funding (C) from riparian countries and international institutions, such as World Bank. It achieved a Shared Vision (N) —to “achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources.” In the last decade, NBI struggled to reach a Cooperative Framework Agreement (G) that could perform as a legal framework to govern the Nile; however, due to Egypt and Sudan’s insistence on their “historic rights” (V) over Nile water, no consensus has been reached by now. At the same time, NBI has initiated environmental projects to monitor and enhance the ecological services (E) in the Basin.

As NBI continues working on more collative developments on Nile, especially in irrigated agriculture and hydropower (C), there is hope to achieve consensus in water governance (G). The insistence on status quo is a kind of positional bargain, which is likely to cause hostility. The negotiations should be based on the principle that all parties get benefits through negotiation. For example, when upstream countries build hydropower dams that can best utilize the water gradient, downstream countries can possibly purchase the power generated at a price even lower than their own cost of producing power. Moreover, virtual water transfer through food trade can also be a way to benefit downstream countries, when more water is taken by upstream countries that have more irrigable land for agriculture. The analysis of benefits should see the whole Nile Basin as a system, where resources can create the most utility through optimism. The Cooperative Framework Agreement can then cement this resources distribution and make sure the both the process and results justified and fair.

From the beginning, NBI has positioned itself as a transitional institution, which will eventually be superseded by a governing institution (G) that has the legal power to form a new water regime (G) through the enforcement of Cooperative Framework Agreement (G). By then, a new water regime can be formed in which single country can dominate the water governance of Nile.

Fig 4 Nile Basin Regime under NBI or Post-NBI era

5.    Summary and Key Questions Addressed

This case study reviews the history of hydropolitics and water governance in Nile River Basin. Three eastern Nile riparian countries, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia are the main focus. The 1929 Water Agreement (G) and the 1959 Water Treaty (G) secured most of Nile water (Q) for Egypt and Sudan, with Egypt getting lion share. These two water treaties formed the status quo, in which Egypt and Sudan insist on their “historic rights” over the Nile. Although a regional collaborative organization – the Nile Basin Initiative (G)- has been in operation since 1999, the movements toward a new Cooperative Framework Agreement is slow, preventing riparian countries to fully utilize their water resources for agricultural and hydropower development (C). Here we find that the real outstanding issue posing a formidable challenge to any breakthrough in Nile riparian cooperation is, indeed, the status quo insisted by Egypt and Sudan via the predominant colonial-era treaty regime. To arrive at a regional consensus on a Cooperative Framework Agreement, the legitimacy of this status quo should be challenged. In addition, the current positional bargain over water quantity should be switched to principle-based negotiation. The added economic value through basin-wide full cooperation can probably drive this change.

The key questions addressed in this case study are: 1) What is the history of water governance over Nile Basin that caused the current status quo deadlock? 2) What can drive the change from positional bargain to principle based negotiation? Egypt needs to soften its stance over its historic water rights and seek for more efficient use of its existing water, while upstream countries need to look for developments that benefit its downstream neighbors.

6.    Reference

Ahmad, a. M. 2008. Post-Jonglei planning in southern Sudan: combining environment with development. Environment and Urbanization 20, no. 2: 575-586.
Cascão, A.E. 2009. Changing power relations in the Nile river basin: Unilateralism vs. cooperation. Water Alternatives 2, no. 2: 245–268.
Harrell, Eben. 2010. Death (of an Agreement) on the Nile. Time Megazine.
Mekonnen, D. Z. 2010. The Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement Negotiations and the Adoption of a 'Water Security' Paradigm: Flight into Obscurity or a Logical Cul-de-sac?. European Journal of International Law 21, no. 2: 421-440.
Revenga, C. J., N. Brunner, K. Henninger, and R. Payne Kassem. 2000. Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems (PAGE): Freshwater Systems. Washington DC.
Strzepek, K. M., G. W. Yohe, R. S. J. Tol, M. W. Rosegrant. 2007. The Value of the High Aswan Dam to the Egyptian Economy. Ecological Economics 66, no.1: 117-126.
Swain, Ashok. 1997. Ethiopia, the Sudan, and Egypt: The Nile River Dispute. The Journal of Modern African Studies 35, no. 4: 675-694.
Swain, Ashok. 2002. The Nile River Basin Initiative: Too Many Cooks, Too Little Broth. SAIS Review 22, no. 2: 293-308.
Time Megazine. 1956. EGYPT: A Yes for Aswan Dam. Time Megazine.
Varner, Bill. 2010. New War in Sudan Might Displace 2.8 Million, UN Official Says. Bloomberg.
Waterbury, J. 2002. The Nile Basin National Determinants of Collective Action. Yale University Press. New Haven.
Whittington, D., X. Wu, and C. Sadoff. 2005. Water resources management in the Nile basin: the economic value of cooperation. Water Policy 7, no. 3: 227–252.
Wolf, Authors Aaron T, and Joshua T Newton. 1999. 1 Case Study of Transboundry Dispute Resolution: the Nile waters Agreement. Water Supply: 1-8.
Wong, CM. 2007. World's Top 10 Rivers at Risk. Working Papers. esocialsciences. com.
WWF. 2007. Nile.

1 comment:

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