Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nile River project seeks 'Africa without borders'



Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is received on his arrival at the Bole International Airport ahead of the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Government of the African Union in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, Jan. 29, 2017. (photo by REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri)


CAIRO — A 2,500-mile navigational shipping line connecting Lake Victoria and the Mediterranean Sea via the Nile River should be up and flowing in 2024, 11 years after it was first approved.
SUMMARY⎙ PRINTThe African Union Steering Committee announced that the massive Nile River navigation project will be complete by 2024, but challenges lie ahead.
AUTHOR

TRANSLATORPascale Menassa
The African Union Steering Committee, headed by Egypt, is directing construction of the project, which is part of the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative. The enterprise is being carried out under the umbrella of the New Partnership for Africa's Development
The project entails building a shipping lane along the Nile River for small- and medium-size commercial vessels to boost bilateral trade among nine countries: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt. The line will stretch more than 4,000 kilometers (about 2,500 miles) along the White Nile all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. The project was widely welcomed, as it will contribute to the countries' development, and has gained even more importance since Ethiopia's bid to join the project in January.
The undertaking is also considered a component of the Alexandria-Cape Town land road project. The land venture is currently operating under the umbrella of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and links southern Africa to its north. The road is about 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles) long and goes through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Gabon and South Africa. The African Development Bank and other international organizations are financing the road's operation, which is being handled jointly by several Egyptian, Saudi and Sudanese companies, among others.
"We still have to add the special specifications related to this international road, such as signs and markers,” but all the infrastructure work has been completed, said an adviser to Samir Salam, Egypt's transportation minister for river transport affairs. The adviser told Al-Monitor that linking the land and water projects will facilitate moving people and goods along the African continent, and then to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.
Nihal Adel, head of the African Ministers Council on Water's Technical Committee, told Al-Monitor the Nile navigational line plan will be implemented in four stages: pre-feasibility studies, feasibility studies, design and blueprints, and execution and operation.
Egypt completed a pre-feasibility study in May 2015 with $500,000 of funding. Just a few weeks ago, Egypt also signed a contract to conduct other feasibility studies with a German-Belgian international consultancy office, using $650,000 in funding from the African Development Bank. “The cost of implementing the project will range between $10 billion and $12 billion,” Adel said.
The pre-feasibility studies provided six alternatives for implementation. Al-Monitor obtained a copy of the study summary, drafted by the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, and approved by COMESA.
The second, third and fifth alternatives focus on overcoming obstacles posed by river areas where navigation is difficult by turning, in part, to land transportation, including a railway network in Uganda that would need to be built to link the Victoria Nile region to Lake Kyoga. This would also involve using the White Nile port in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, to receive shipments by rail and river navigation networks, relying on Egypt's 800-kilometer (497-mile) "shortcut" navigable river channel from the Abu Hamed area to Aswan, rather than the 2,300 kilometers (1,429 miles) by road.
Nader Masri, head of the unit overseeing the studies on the Nile navigational line, explained other details of those plans to Al-Monitor. “The mechanisms aimed at overcoming river navigation obstacles in the Nile in the second, third and fifth alternatives to the project [also] consist of [rectifying] the Nile course, setting canal locks to overcome waterfalls and traffic areas of the dams in the Nile, and providing elevators to transport cargo from one level to another in the Nile.”
Meanwhile, the first alternative relies on the course of the Nile for navigating ships and transporting goods, excluding Lake Victoria. It also relies on the rail network through Uganda and the LAPSSET program, which connects East and Central Africa to the Mombasa port in Kenya. (LAPSSET stands for Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport Corridor.) The fourth alternative is similar to the first, but provides an opportunity to link Rwanda with Lake Victoria by including navigation across the lake and the Nile. The sixth alternative depends entirely on river navigation in the Nile and on construction of navigation lines on Lake Victoria, which connects Kenya, Tanzania and, through the Kagera River, Rwanda.
These three alternatives (the first, fourth and sixth) require linking Lake Edward and Lake Albert, and the construction of a navigation channel linking the Abu Hamed region of Sudan to Aswan.
From his office in Cairo, Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Ati told Al-Monitor that the Nile navigation project has become a development corridor, especially since linking with the Alexandria-Cape Town land route.
"Its main objective is to be linked to Europe and to solve the problem of poor infrastructure and the high cost of transportation, which reduces the economic viability of investment projects in the African continent,” he said.
Objections have been raised in Cairo against the Nile navigation line. Haitham Awad, former head of the irrigation and hydraulics department at Alexandria University, told Al-Monitor the LAPSSET project in Kenya threatens the economic feasibility of the Nile navigational line. “The Kenyan project will connect East and Central Africa to international markets via a line between Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan that ends at the sea port on the Indian Ocean,” he said.
“Trade and commerce will be faster and easier from Kenya, instead of Egypt."
Egypt’s former minister of water resources and irrigation, Mohamed Nasreddin Allam, told Al-Monitor political tensions and lack of security and stability in African countries present major challenges for such projects. For example, unrest in South Sudan has been impeding completion of the Jonglei Canal Project between that country and Egypt, which is designed to divert 12 billion cubic meters of water currently lost in swamps, Allam said. Also, since that project is bilateral and not regional, "Some foreign parties are hindering [its] execution,” he said.
But, as for objections to the Nile navigation line, he said, “The 10 countries [including Ethiopia] that are partners in the project will deploy concerted efforts to overcome any developments that may hamper its completion." In addition, studies have shown that the LAPSSET corridor in East Africa complements the navigational line project, he said.
Supporters say the efforts of the New Partnership for Africa's Development to execute the Mediterranean, Victoria-Cape Town development axis project would solve numerous problems in Africa and create a spirit of development cooperation under the banner “Africa Without Borders.” 

Ethiopia dam causes Kenya water shortage: rights group



Ethiopia's huge Gibe III dam aims to double the country's electricity output, but critics say it is a threat to Lake Turkana


Ethiopia's huge Gibe III dam aims to double the country's electricity output, but critics say it is a threat to Lake Turkana (AFP Photo/-)


Addis Ababa (AFP) - A huge newly-built Ethiopian dam is cutting off the supply of water to Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, rights group Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
The Gibe III dam, along with a network of sugar plantations, has caused the depth of Lake Turkana to drop by 1.5 meters from its previous levels since the dam's reservoir began filling in 2015, according to a HRW report.
In one part of Turkana, the world's largest desert lake, the shore has receded by nearly two kilometres, threatening the livelihoods of fishing communities.
"Ethiopia is in such a rush to develop its resources that these downstream individuals, who are completely marginalised, just aren't part of the equation," said Felix Horne, a HRW researcher.
Built at a cost of 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion), Gibe III is the third-most powerful dam in Africa and the highest, at 243 meters (800 feet) in height.
The dam, which has already caused some controversy, is expected to double the electricity output of Ethiopia.
The country was the continent's fastest-growing economy in 2015, but GDP is expected to take a hit due to a series of anti-government protests that targeted foreign businesses, and to an ongoing drought.
Environmentalists and the UN cultural body UNESCO have condemned Gibe III, saying they fear the dam will staunch the Omo River, which provides 80 percent of the water flow into Lake Turkana.
HRW has also criticised Ethiopia's government for uprooting people along the river to make way for sugar plantations.
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn dismissed criticism of the dam in a speech inaugurating the project, saying Gibe III satisfied Ethiopia's power demands and allowed it to export electricity.
Ethiopia also plans 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of sugar plantation in the Omo River valley, along with factories to process the cane.
Tens of thousands of hectares have already been cleared, but Horne says the development should be reduced to preserve Lake Turkana's water level.
"I think the most important thing by far is that the sugar plantations, which are very water-intensive, that those be cut back," Horne said.
At Turkana, communal clashes have broken out over access to scarce water supplies.
Should the lake drop further, Horne worries conflict will intensify.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ethiopia should respect international laws on joint watercourses between states, says Somalia







Somali government calls on Ethiopia to respect international law, in place to regulate water relations among countries sharing the same watercourse, following the emergence of reports claiming Ethiopia closed Shabelle river water going to Somalia, minister said Sunday.
Ahmed Hassan Gaboobe, Somalia’s minister for agriculture said Ethiopia has to respect Somalia’s “historical rights” and the basics of international law on natural sources shared by countries.
“Founding principles of the international law regulating joint watercourses between states, we called upon our neighbouring Ethiopian government to respect the laws,” said Gaboobe.
The move came after one of Somalia’s two biggest reivers, Shabelle dried two times since Ethiopian government started storing Shabelle river water flow behind the walls for a dam purpose and irrigation of our own farming fields in Somali region of Ethiopia.
Somalia’s central and south main water source-River Shabelle has dried up as the river is already being used as footpaths.
River Shebelle which is 1130 kilometres long, extending for 1000 km inside Ethiopia and 130 km inside Somalia.

The river flows through Middle and Lower Shabelle, Hiraan regions sometimes causes destructive flash floods

Ethiopia should respect international laws on joint watercourses between states, says Somalia







Somali government calls on Ethiopia to respect international law, in place to regulate water relations among countries sharing the same watercourse, following the emergence of reports claiming Ethiopia closed Shabelle river water going to Somalia, minister said Sunday.
Ahmed Hassan Gaboobe, Somalia’s minister for agriculture said Ethiopia has to respect Somalia’s “historical rights” and the basics of international law on natural sources shared by countries.
“Founding principles of the international law regulating joint watercourses between states, we called upon our neighbouring Ethiopian government to respect the laws,” said Gaboobe.
The move came after one of Somalia’s two biggest reivers, Shabelle dried two times since Ethiopian government started storing Shabelle river water flow behind the walls for a dam purpose and irrigation of our own farming fields in Somali region of Ethiopia.
Somalia’s central and south main water source-River Shabelle has dried up as the river is already being used as footpaths.
River Shebelle which is 1130 kilometres long, extending for 1000 km inside Ethiopia and 130 km inside Somalia.

The river flows through Middle and Lower Shabelle, Hiraan regions sometimes causes destructive flash floods

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sisi discusses Nile Egypt's water supply is a matter of "life and death."

El-Sisi

Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi during the second follow-up meeting in Aswan (Snapshot from Egyptian TV)
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Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi discussed on Friday evening a host of local and regional issues with youths attending the second monthly conference of dialogue wth the president in Aswan.
The conference is part of an initiative to hold monthly youth conferences, which was adopted at the first annual National Youth Conference in October.
El-Sisi fielded questions from the audience on a number of topics including the persisting absence of indoor plumbing in most of Egypt's 4,500 villages, the impact of Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam on Egypt's share of Nile water, and the potential ramifications US president Donald Trump's stated intentions to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
El-Sisi president said that although Egyptians' concerns about the Ethipian dam are legitimate, he assured that the issue is being dealt with "in a good way" and in accordance with the agreements reached between Cairo and Addis Ababa.
He assured the audience that Egypt takes the issue seriously, saying the issue of Egypt's water supply is a matter of "life and death."
The two-day gathering brings together 1,300 young people from Upper Egyptian governorates, and is being held in one of the city's hotels amid tight security measures. 
The meetings are attended by a number of MPs and ministers.
The conference aims to tackle challenges facing Upper Egypt, including ways to develop the economy and tourism in the area.
It is also focusing on social and political empowerment among young people, El-Sisi's office said earlier this week.
In his first public comments on Trump's campaign promise to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the hopeful capital of any future Palestinian state, the president he is delivering a message to the whole world, including the American and Israeli public, "not to make the situation more complicated."
A peaceful settlement for the Palestinian issue is key, El-Sisi said.
On domestic economic development, the Egyptian president also said that the government intends to raise the number of villages that have indoor plumbibg from 10 percent of the country's villages to 40 percent by mid 2018.
Sisi also addressed the country's ongoing economic difficulties, saying that Egypt currently has limited financial resources.
He said that publicly-owned pharmaceutical companies are not operating at full capacity due to financial and legislative obstacles.
The president and the minister of housing, who also attended the meeting, stressed that the government is committed to building more affordable housing for poorer citizens.
On inflation, El-Sisi said price hikes will be slow down once the supply catches up with the demand, adding that current economic growth is slower than population growth.
In October, over 3,000 young people from a number of the country's universities and political parties attended the National Youth Conference in the Sinai resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh.
The first monthly follow-up conference was held in December.
During his visit, the Egyptian president is scheduled to inaugurate the new Aswan Public Hospital, which has 15 outpatient clinics. The establishment of the new six-floor hospital cost EGP 140 million, in addition to the EGP 155 million cost of equipping the hospital.
El-Sisi arrived in Aswan on Wednesday, where he shook hands with a group of tourists on the streets of the city, later joining a group of young people as they watched Egypt play Ghana in the African Cup of Nations tournament.