Nile Basin

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Nile Basin: 

Nile Basin Challenges to sustainable development


Introduction The purpose of this presentation is to identify the problems facing development in the Nile Basin and in particular those facing the Nile Basin Initiative. Nabil El-Khodari, CEO & Founder, Nile Basin Society (NBS).

Topics of Discussion: 

Topics of Discussion The Nile: Geography, demography and hydrology. Socio-economic factors, particularly population trends. Hydro-politics: the treaties governing the Nile The Nile Basin Initiative Challenges facing the NBI.

The Nile River: 

The Nile River 6695 km from source Ruvyironza River, Burundi. 3 million km2 2 parts: White Nile Blue Nile

Nile River flow by month: 

Nile River flow by month Nile flow fluctuates greatly with a SD of + 25%

The White Nile contribution revisited: 

The White Nile contribution revisited Since 1961, inflow to the Sudd has increased substantially, presumably due to increased rainfall in the headwaters around Lake Victoria. The inflow was 26,831 billion m3/year of water prior to 1960, but from 1960-1980, it averaged 50,324 billion m3/year (Hughes and Hughes 1992). The wetland area consequently increased dramatically until 1980, but the trends in recent years are not known.



Critical information : 

Critical information

Population trends: 

Population trends Concentration: Move from non-riverain zone (NRZ) to riverain zone (RZ): Sudan: from 38.1% 1983 to 43.7% 2000. Ethiopia: from 37.6% 1984 to 44.0% 1994. RZ in Ethiopia & Sudan will be 97 million in 2025; more than Egypt population.


Urbanization 1973 1987 Nile Delta

Nile hydro-politics Nile Treaties: 

Nile hydro-politics Nile Treaties History 1902 treaty 1929 treaty 1959 Nile Water Agreement The Sudan - Ethiopia agreement (1991) Framework for General Cooperation, July, 1993 (Egypt & Ethiopia)

Historical Background: 

Historical Background Cotton shortage Nile Projects Commission (1920): India United Kingdom United States 84 BCM/yr - Egypt 58 BCM/yr fluctuations shared evenly. Century Storage Scheme: a storage facility on the Uganda-Sudan border a dam at Sennar to irrigate the Gezira region south of Khartoum, and, a dam on the White Nile to hold summer flood water for Egypt.

The 1902 treaty (Great Britain and Ethiopia) : 

The 1902 treaty (Great Britain and Ethiopia) Article III: “His Majesty the Emperor Menilik II, King of Kings of Ethiopia, engages himself towards the Government of His Britannic Majesty not to construct or allow to be constructed any work across the Blue Bile, Lake Tana, or the Sobat, which would arrest the flow of their waters except in agreement with His Britannic Majesty’s Government and the Government of Sudan"

The 1929 treaty (Egypt & Sudan): 

The 1929 treaty (Egypt & Sudan) New Nile Projects Commission in 1925, based on the 1920 estimates: 4 BCM/Year to Sudan 48 BCM/year to Egypt Egypt’s interests guaranteed through: Having a claim to the entire timely flow. Having rights to on-site inspectors at the Sennar dam. no works would be developed along the river or on any of its territory, which would threaten Egyptian interests

The 1959 Agreement Agreement for the Full Utilization of the Nile Waters (Egypt & Sudan): 

The 1959 Agreement Agreement for the Full Utilization of the Nile Waters (Egypt & Sudan) 55.5 BCM for Egypt and 18.5 BCM for Sudan. Funding for any project (after Aswan Dam) to increase Nile flow will be provided evenly and the additional water split evenly. Establishment of a permanent Joint Technical Committee: Resolve disputes. Review claims of other riparian countries Determine allocation in low flows. The combined needs of upper Nile countries would not exceed 1-2 thousand MCM/year. Any claims should be met by a unified Egyptian/Sudanese front.

The Sudan - Ethiopia agreement (1991): 

The Sudan - Ethiopia agreement (1991) The two countries are committed to the principle of equitable utilization of the waters of the Blue Nile and Atbara rivers. Establishment of a technical joint committee to exchange data and to explore co-operation Sudan has moved away from the ‘united front’ with Egypt. Serious: has led to the adoption of policies for economic and political integration.

Framework for General cooperation, 1993 (Egypt & Ethiopia) : 

Framework for General cooperation, 1993 (Egypt & Ethiopia) neither country would do anything with the Nile that causes ‘appreciable harm’ to the other. to consult and co-operate in projects of mutual advantages such as projects that would enhance the volume of flow and decrease the loss of water through a comprehensive and integrated development schemes.

Nile Basin Initiative (NBI): 

Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) “To achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources.”

Shared Vision Programs: 

Shared Vision Programs

The magic formula?: 

The magic formula? what can be taken from the current stream flow of 84 BCM, from the shares of Egypt and the Sudan for the benefit of Ethiopia, as well as satisfying the renewing needs it is the Sudan, through the Jonglei Canal, the Machar Marsh and the Bahr El Ghazal Basin, that can practically compensate for a considerable part of it. The Machar Marshes and Bahr El Ghazal alone can contribute with 11 billion cube meters (Naff and Matson 1984: 139, also see Shapland 1997: 92).


Marchar Marshes Jonglei Canal The heart of the NBI efforts

The challenges facing the NBI as identified by NB countries (1999): 

The challenges facing the NBI as identified by NB countries (1999) political instability, mistrust and other shortcomings to mutual co-operation among the riparian countries, lack of transparency in dealing with issues of common interest, lack of technical, financial, and economic capacity, lack of long-term visions and long-term planning, inappropriate legal and institutional framework for water management, and various disparities within the region. 7th Nile 2002 Conference” (TECCONILE, 1999) World Water Council’s Vision for the 21st Century process

Challenges Facing the NBI: 

Challenges Facing the NBI Conceptual / Strategic Procedural / Tactical Communication Funding Legal

Conceptual / Strategic: 

Conceptual / Strategic Addressing the real causes of poverty and including the Millennium Development Goals. Expansion of the process outside the realm of water technocrats. Public Participation. Addressing the demand side, not only the supply side. The Sudan question.

Procedural / Tactical: 

Procedural / Tactical Public participation: interference and exclusion. Attaining the goals of the SVP. Involvement of other UN agencies. EIAs and feasibility studies. conflict resolution

Communication challenge: 

Communication challenge “There is hardly any information flowing between the NBI secretariat and the media, because the language used by the secretariat was "too technical and distanced from us". "Few journalists know what is happening as far as the Nile is concerned. If you go there, they just give you the colonial treaties and some difficult-to-understand documents. We are hitting a wall," Elizabeth Birabwa, environmental writer


Funding No World Bank/IMF funding. Global conditions Financial accountability and transparency.


Legal Water agreement between Nile Basin countries. Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (1997).


Summary The NBI is based on narrow technocratic vision of increasing the water supply and hydro-power of NB countries without addressing the vital developmental issues facing the region and most probably at the expense of the environment. There are no scientific data ensuring the basis of the NBI solution. It is a purely top-down process.

What is needed : 

What is needed A holistic Nile People Initiative (NPI) is needed that addresses the short-comings of the NBI. This should address social and constitutional changes and adopt the MDG as its goal and the people as its center. Pressures by the funding agencies and countries to ensure real public participation, transparency, accountability as well as sustainability of the NBI projects.

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