Mersie Ejigu

Abstract

The greater Ethiopian Abbay basin has shaped Ethiopia’s political, economic, socio-cultural, diplomatic, security, and ecological agenda for centuries. The Basin covers about a third of the country’s surface area, 70 percent of the country’s water resources, and accounts for 86 percent of the Nile water that flows to Egypt. Abbay, indeed, is an integral part of the Ethiopian national identity conveyed in music, chants, art, literature, and religious rituals.

Triggered by the construction of the GERD, which benefits Sudan, almost at the same level as Ethiopia, the lower riparian countries (Egypt and Sudan) are pursuing highly confrontational and detrimental approaches, including Sudan’s occupation of Ethiopia’s territory, and the spread of a false GERD narrative contrary to scientific findings and consensus reached among technocrats of the three countries.

The sad reality is that climate change, recurrent drought, ecosystem degradation and the lack of alternative livelihood sources for upstream people are playing havoc to the quantity and quality of the Nile waters. A growing number of streams that flow into the Nile are drying up, with perennial streams turning into floods in the rainy season and dry river beds off-season. Only 60 percent of the Ethiopian population has access to clean and potable water, while over 65 percent of the population remains dependent on traditional biomass energy.

Now, the game must change. It is time for win-win solutions, choosing peace and cooperation over war and confrontation, science over misinformation and false narratives, equity and justice over greed and hegemony, rational and sustainable use of water over wasteful and resource degrading behavior, and “we” over “I.”

This paper argues that there is need for a comprehensive framework to lift the GERD/Nile issue from the quagmire it finds itself in.  A framework that addresses, in an integrated manner, conservation, sustainable use and equitable benefit sharing; all water resources: surface and underground water (aquifers), seas and oceans; water use efficiency, responsibility, and accountability; climate adaptation, mitigation, ecosystem restoration and payment for ecosystem services; the knowledge cycle in its entirety: knowledge generation, use, development and communication; developing a comprehensive Nile Treaty in line with the (NBI) principles of “One river, one people, and one vision” and “Equitable, considerate, and sustainable use.” EWAC, on its part, is guided by this framework.

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