Egypt: committed to multilateral arrangements of Nile waters
The Egyptian government is intent on making use of the Nile waters in such a way that every country through which it or its source-rivers pass, gets maximum benefit, said Marwan Badr, the Egyptian ambassador to Ethiopia.
Quoted by the Pan-African news agency, Badr said, "[my] government is committed to multilateral arrangements of Nile waters development projects, as agreed upon in the recent meeting in Khartoum (Sudan). That would benefit both upstream and downstream countries without harming the downstream countries and the other countries of the basin.”
Egypt has fallen under suspicion that it is siphoning off more water than it rightfully deserves from Nile River, which flows northward along the length of the country, after running across 10 other Nile basin countries.
Speaking at a workshop on "Ethiopian bilateral relations and development in the Nile basin" the Egyptian ambassador said his country does not intend to "serve its water interests at the expense of Ethiopia or any upstream country." But, he added, any change to the current water situation could be implemented only on condition that there would be no reduction in the amount of water reaching Egypt. Technical means should be studied that will improve the water supply elsewhere, without working to Egypt’s detriment, he stated.
For its part, Ethiopia has stated that, inasmuch as it was not a British colony at the time, it is not bound by the 1959 agreement between the British and the Egyptian with regard to the sharing of the Nile waters. Drought-susceptible Ethiopia has a population of nearly 60 million, which is growing annually at 3.2 percent. It is believed that if Ethiopia uses Nile water to irrigate all its arable land, the flow of water to Egypt could be cut by up to 15 percent.
In February 2000, Egypt announced the development of an independent water policy, which emphasized cooperation among the 10 Nile basin countries in the development of shared water resources. Egypt was instrumental in establishing the Association of Countries of the Nile Basin, and in order to promote cooperation further within this framework, it formed the Ministerial Council for Nile Basin Countries. In this spirit, Egypt has carefully avoided being drawn into political controversy concerning the Nile. At the same time, it has used all possible means to improve its bilateral relations with all the countries of the Nile basin, including Ethiopia.
At a three-day meeting of the council held March 28-30, the 10 member countries endorsed development projects like hydroelectric and environmental protection schemes for submission to an international donor forum. The projects will fall under the international consortium for cooperation on the Nile (ICCON), spearhead by the World Bank and including the Canada-based International Development Agency and UNDP. An ICCON meeting scheduled for June in Geneva. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)