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'NO NILE, NO EGYPT' War of words escalates over proposed Ethiopian dam

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 10th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Egypt and Ethiopia have escalated their war of words over a proposed Ethiopian dam. Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr has vowed not to give up "a single drop of water from the Nile." He says that he will travel to Addis Ababa to discuss the dam that Ethiopia has begun to build in defiance of Cairo's objections.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Amr said Egyptians view any obstacle to the river's flow as a threat to national survival. Speaking to Egypt's state news agency MENA, he reiterated "No Nile - no Egypt." The comment came two days after the Ethiopian government flatly rejected a request from Cairo to halt the project,

This controversy comes at an inopportune time, as the Egyptian government's popularity is wilting in the face of economic troubles. The proposed hydro power plant will only further stretch water supplies for its 84 million people.

Ethiopia summoned the Egyptian ambassador last week, after politicians in Cairo were shown on television suggesting military action or supporting Ethiopian rebels.

"Egypt won't give up on a single drop of water from the Nile or any part of what arrives into Egypt from this water in terms of quantity and quality," Amr declared, adding that Egypt has little rain and is effectively a desert without its great river. The plan to dam the Blue Nile is being seen as a clear threat to Egypt, as the tributary that supplies the bulk of water downstream in Egypt.

Amr declined to detail the action Egypt might take next. He acknowledged Ethiopian assurances that Africa's biggest hydro station would not cut water supplies. "We have a plan for action, which will start soon," Amr said. "We'll talk to Ethiopia and we'll see what comes of it.

"Ethiopia has said it will not harm Egypt, not even by a liter of water. We are looking at . this being implemented."

Countries that share the Nile have long argued over the use of its waters, repeatedly raising fears that the disputes could eventually lead to an armed confrontation. Egypt, already struggling with a shortage of cash and bitter internal political divisions following a 2011 revolution, called on Ethiopia to stop work after engineers began diverting the course of the Blue Nile late last month.

A government spokesman in Addis Ababa, called that request a "non-starter" and dismissed threats from Cairo of "sabotage" and "destabilization," saying attempts by Egypt under its previous military rulers to undermine Ethiopian leaders had failed.

The possible downstream effects of the $4.7-billion Grand Renaissance Dam, 25 miles from Ethiopia's border with Sudan, have been disputed.

While letting water through such dams - of which Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia already have several - may not reduce its flow greatly, the filling of the reservoir behind any new dam means cutting the river's flow for a time. Evaporation from reservoirs can also permanently reduce water flowing downstream.

Now 21 percent complete, the new dam on the Blue Nile will eventually have capacity of 6,000 megawatts and is central to Ethiopia's plans to become Africa's leading exporter of power.

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