Thursday, August 13, 2009

Water Wars

The BBC carries this report

Egypt is defending its historic rights to extract more from the Nile than any other country against calls for change to long-existing agreements. After a recent meeting at Alexandria failed to resolve differences, ministers from the nine main Nile states are allowing six months to agree a new legal framework for sharing the waters of the Nile .

"This is a national security issue," says Deputy Foreign Minister Mona Omar. "The Nile is life for Egypt." and adds "no way" Egypt will allow a reduction of its water quota.

A 1929 agreement with Britain - representing its then East African colonies - gave Egypt the right to veto upstream projects that would affect its water share.

The International Rivers Network identifies the Nile Basin as a global hotspot for potential water conflict. Several Nile countries are among the world's poorest nations and there is a history of fighting in and between them. Water scarcity is already an issue but is becoming more pressing.In Egypt a new official report predicts that if no action is taken the country's water needs will surpass its resources by 2017

The looming prospect of water wars has not gone unnoticed or uncommented upon by socialists and what we of the WSM/SPGB have said previously

Egypt anticipates that its population will double to 110 million within 35 years. Even now it is faced with a water shortage and has for some time imported "virtual water"-grain and other foodstuffs which removes the necessity to use water for home-grown food. Egypt finds itself in the unique position of being totally dependent on the Nile, a river whose flow and tributaries are controlled by 8 other countries.

Already, Egypt has rattled its sabre at Ethiopia, which controls 80 percent of the supply and which has embarked upon a series of dams and irrigation schemes along the Blue Nile and, which if extended, would also interfere with Sudan's supply.

With Egypt looking to irrigate reclaimed desert along its northern coast and needing to increase its share of Nile water by 15 billion cubic metres per year, and with a further 8 countries seeking to increase their share, it takes no great leap in the imagination to see how water is increasingly dominating Egypt's foreign policy and why Egypt sees the taking of more water by its neighbours as an act of war.

Ismail Seageldin, vice-president of the World Bank, made a disturbing prediction in 1995: "Many of the wars this century were about oil, but the wars of the next century will be about water."

No comments: