Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Conflict Rivers - - The River Nile

While we were all witnessing revolt and change in Egypt this spring, the Nile just kept on flowing.  The Nile is the world's longest river, starting in the Ethiopian highlands.  Geography has always put the rulers of Ethiopia in a position of power - - yet they have dared never to exploit this power.  Until recently.

While Egypt has been distracted, Ethiopia and the other upstream countries, Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, have banded together to rewrite the 1959 treaty that favors Egypt.  Consider the changing facts since 1959 - - Ethiopia has overtaken Egypt as Africa's second-most populated country.  The total population of the upstream countries in 240 million against 130 million for the downstream countries (Egypt and Sudan - - keep in mind that Sudan is splitting.  The southern portion of Sudan could conceivability end up with the upstream coalition). 

So what is Ethiopia up to?  The Grand Millennium Dam - - a planned hydro-power project in the 5.25 gigawatts range.  It is the centerpiece of a plan to increase the country's electricity supply fivefold by 2015.  The intersection of water and energy (one person's "water and energy" is another person's "water or energy") on a conflict river, in a conflict area, in a conflict region.  The Chinese appear to be playing banker.  Keep an eye on the CNN headlines - - "Egypt and Ethiopia quarrel over water."

Excellent article on the subject in the April 23rd The Economist - - The River Nile: A dam nuisance.

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