June 18, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Nile-Technical Advisory Committee (Nile-TAC) of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) announced today that Egypt has suspended participation in NBI activities.
- Egypt fears that Ethiopia’s $4.6 billion hydropower plant on the Blue Nile will diminish its share of water resources (Photo: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Sudan’s minister of irrigation and water resources and chairperson of the NBI, Saif al-Din Hamad, said at a press conference on Wednesday that Egypt suspended participation in the NBI and did not attend the preparatory meetings which was held recently in Khartoum.
But Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA) reported that an Egyptian delegation headed by ambassador Sherif Isa arrived in Khartoum to participate in the NBI 22nd ministerial meeting that will start on Thursday.
Hamad said that Sudan recognizes the right of the upstream countries to a reasonable and equitable utilization of the Nile resources for the benefit of their people, stressing that cooperation among the Nile basin countries is inevitable.
He highlighted the integrative opportunities for promoting cooperation among the Nile basin countries, saying that while some states have the opportunity to generate electricity, others have agricultural land at their disposal and others have industrial capabilities.
The Sudanese official said that Ethiopia could produce 160, 000 Kilowatt-hours of electricity besides Eritrea’s agricultural capabilities which offers an opportunity for launching joint projects between the Nile basin countries.
The Sudanese minister also spoke of water loss from the heavy rains in the equatorial Nile, saying that it has an adverse impact on growing crops which consume large a mounts of water such as rice and sugar cane.
He noted that South Sudan has great potential for electric power generation and Egypt has large industrial capabilities, underscoring the need for cooperation between the two countries to take advantage of these integrative opportunities.
“Our biggest challenge is how to build confidence among the Nile basin countries to establish a strong regional bloc in order to reduce poverty and offer support for the people in the region”, he added.
The meeting of ministers in charge of water affairs in the NBI in Khartoum on Thursday will witness a change in the NBI governance in which South Sudan’s minister for Electricity, Water and Irrigation, Jemma Nunu Kumba will hand over the chairmanship of the Sudanese minister of electricity, Mutaz Musa Abdalla Salim.
The changes in the NBI leadership and top management are in line with the NBI tradition of rotating the two positions among its member states in alphabetical order.
However, whereas the position of Nile-COM chair rotates each year, that of its executive director alternates every two years.
During the one-day meeting, ministers from the NBI countries are also expected to extensively deliberate on the status of the Nile cooperation and how to move it forward.
“They will also take time to review progress made by the NBI in the previous fiscal year, consider the plans and budgets for the coming year and provide strategic guidance,” party reads the statement.
Meanwhile, the Nile-TAC, NBI management, representatives of development partners and the civil society will participate in meeting as observers.
An NBI information network official for his part pointed to the need for building a database for the NBI, saying cooperation among the member countries is inevitable for the management of crucial water resources.
The NBI is a partnership among the Nile riparian states that “seeks to develop the river in a cooperative manner, share substantial socioeconomic benefits, and promote regional peace and security”.
It began with a dialogue among the riparian states that resulted in a shared vision to “achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources."
The NBI was formally launched in February 1999 by the water ministers of nine countries that share the river : Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as Eritrea as an observer.
The Entebbe Agreement, designed to reallocate Nile water shares, was signed in February 2011 by Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi.
But Egypt rejected the accord saying it violates its legal rights in the Nile water per agreements signed during the colonial era.
Cairo is also in a lingering dispute with Addis Ababa over the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam as it fears the dam will diminish its water share and will eventually affect the country’s people, most of whom heavily rely upon the Nile’s water.