Sudan, Ethiopia, Ruanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo: not only Egypt wants Nile water. Since the moment that -except for Egypt and Sudan- all other countries mentioned above started the so-called Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) in 2009, politicians in Egypt and Sudan have been in a state of alarm. The other countries announced they want a bigger share of the Nile water for their development, and so Ethiopia for instance started the construction of dams in the Nile headwaters. Sudan and Egypt frantically disagree with the plans of the upstream countries.


Dr. Raouf Darwish, Managing Director of Darwish Consulting Engineers in Cairo, can understand the Egyptian worries, but he does not see any other option than to keep on talking with its international partners further upstream. ‘What other option do we have? I am 63 years old now. I have lived through the wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973, that was enough for me. We have to come to a common level of understanding. All the countries along the Nile are in a sort of marriage with each other, and in a marriage you first have to agree on rules and then you have to make compromises in order to be able to live with each other.’


Another urgently needed action in Egypt is to start saving water. Since roughly 80 percent of the annual 55,5 Billion cubic meters of Nile water that Egypt receives goes to agriculture, the biggest savings in water use can be achieved here. Mr. Darwish: ‘Since 1959, when our government agreed on the division of the water of the Nile, the population of Egypt has increased from 20 million people to more than 80 million. We have to increase our water saving efforts, we have to look for other water resources; we have to recycle water. Trying to renegotiate the shares of water on the international level will not bring us anywhere; it will only distract us from the real issue. We have to keep on talking as international partners. It’s our only option. Could a water war be possible? Anything is possible…’

Text: Jeroen Kuiper

Photo: Ronald de Hommel

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