Wednesday, July 29, 2009



Tuesday, 28th July, 2009

By Gerald Tenywa and Agencies

EGYPT is still vehemently opposed to changing the agreements over the River Nile, saying it will not compromise its historic rights or accept a reduction in its water share, water minister Mohamed Nasreddin Allam, said on Monday.

Allam said it did not matter if other Nile Basin countries were not convinced of the rights given to Egypt, the most populous Arab country, in previous agreements.
The river’s total flow is around 84 billion cubic metres.

The 1929 agreement was signed between Egypt and Great Britain, which at the time was acting on behalf of its East African colonies.

The 1959 Egypt, Sudan agreement acts as a supplement to the previous accord and gives Egypt the right to 55.5 billion cubic metres of Nile water a year. In the 1959 agreement, Egypt was allocated 70% of the water and Sudan walked away with 30%.

Both agreements have created resentment among the other eight Nile states, which have called for changes to the pact.

Uganda’s state minister for water Jennipher Namuyangu declined to comment. “I cannot discuss these things because it might derail the negotiations.”

Water minister Maria Mutagamba, who is attending the meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, is expected to return on Friday.

A meeting of Nile Basin ministers that took place in the DR Congo in May fell through when Egypt refused to sign a new framework over the Nile River.

All countries except Egypt and Sudan agreed that the controversial article on water security would be presented as an annex to the pact.

In an earlier interview, Dr. Callist Tindimugaya, a water expert, said the contentious part of the proposed Nile Cooperative Framework seeks to nullify the Nile colonial agreements.

“In the draft copy, Article 14(b) talks about water security. The way it is formulated would nullify the old agreements,” according to Dr. Callist Tindimugaya. “Egypt and Sudan want it stated in a way which still gives them control over the water.”

The World Bank and other donor countries to the Nile Basin Initiative, a commission formed in 1999, sent a letter on June 29 to all parties expressing concern over the Kinshasa meeting.

“The first inclusive Nile agreement is close to being fully realised,” David Grey, senior water adviser at the World Bank, said in his opening remarks at the conference yesterday.

“But there is a difficult issue to be resolved.”

Egypt, with a population of close to 77 million people, lies below the water poverty line of 1,000 cubic meters per capita per year.

It only has around 800 cubic meters per capita per year. Egypt has said its water needs would surpass its resources by the year 2017.

The North African country is heavily dependent on the Nile River, which comprises around 87% of its total water resources.

“We can’t fix everything in one day. An agreement for all basin countries will take time, so we have to have patience but I’m sure there will be a solution,” Allam said.

Nile pacts since 1929
This was signed between Egypt and Great Britain, which represented at the time Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and Sudan. It gave Cairo the right to veto projects on the Nile that would affect its water share

THE 1959 pact of EGYPT AND SUDAN
This gave Egypt the right to 55.5 billion cubic metres of Nile water per year and Sudan 18.5 billion cubic metres

This was concluded between Egypt and Ethiopia, from which 85% of Egypt's water originates. Both countries pledged not to implement water projects harmful to the interests of the other and consult over projects to reduce waste and increase the flow of water

The initiative brings together Nile Basin countries to develop the river in a cooperative manner, share socio-economic benefits and promote regional peace and security

This convention has yet to be agreed by all Nile Basin countries. Talks in the Congolese capital Kinshasa in May over the new framework failed after Egypt refused to sign the deal. Egypt has argued that it would not approve any new framework that would deny it a right to 55.5 billion cubic metres of water per year and its veto powers over projects that would harm its allocation