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Egyptians are thirsty and not necessarily for democracy

Anyone who looks at a map of Egypt will see the vast desert (about a million square kilometers) crossed by a narrow, green line of the Nile River. With the exception of remote deserts, the Nile is the only source of water in the land of the Pharaohs. A source of water is a source of life and as such the Egyptians see it as their almost exclusive "property".

The White Nile Falls in South Sudan. Photo: Dr. Assaf Rosenthal
The White Nile Falls in South Sudan. Photo: Dr. Assaf Rosenthal

In recent days we have been flooded with news about what is happening in Egypt

I don't understand politics, so I don't intend to deal with reasons or solutions, but every rabbi knows that you can put out a fire with water. Behind the news there are urgent and difficult problems at least as serious as happenings on the broadcast front and they can be summed up in one word - water!

Anyone who looks at a map of Egypt will see the vast desert (about a million square kilometers) crossed by a narrow, green line of the Nile River. With the exception of remote deserts, the Nile is the only source of water in the land of the Pharaohs. A source of water is a source of life and as such the Egyptians see it as their almost exclusive "property".

The Nile has two branches: the White Nile which originates in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and the Blue Nile
which originates from Lake Tana in Ethiopia. In Khartoum, the two branches connect to a river that carries about 85 billion cubic meters of water every year, with the Blue Nile contributing about 85% of the total flow.

The drainage basin of the Nile constitutes about 10% (about 3.5 million square kilometers) of the surface of Africa and has about 200 million inhabitants, more than half of whom are poor and dependent on seasonal rains for agricultural crops which are the source of their livelihood. The need to generate electricity and irrigate fields creates an ever-increasing demand for the river's water, on top of that: continuous damage to soil fertility, changes in rainfall cycles and warming, all of these create a threat to the amount of water in the river and its flow.

In the past I wrote about dams, about water, about the Nile and the problem of the desert - all of these are connected in Africa. In more detail and back to the title, Egypt's main problem is the demand of upstream countries for water rights. The water of the river, which originates in the center of East Africa and Ethiopia, was considered until the middle of the twentieth century as an almost perfect "monopoly" of Egypt, since the 1929 agreement ratified in 1959. This "agreement" was enforced on the various countries by the British and it states that Egypt has the right to 85% of the water and Sudan 15%. From the point of view of the British, all the countries where the sources of the Nile flow are not eligible because from the point of view of the "advanced" and "civilized" British, these were not geographical entities and their inhabitants were not considered as those to be taken into account.

The situation changed when Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and recently South Sudan became independent entities, each with intentions and demands for the use of natural resources in their territory. In other words: independent countries demand the right to use the Nile water. At the same time, huge projects are being developed in Egypt to transport Nile water (the Tushka Canal) to vast desert areas in the "Western Desert", projects that will draw more water from the Hior.

Over the years there have been discussions between the countries upriver and Egypt on a redistribution of the water. In 1990, an intergovernmental body (Nile Basin Initiative) was established which was supposed to promote sustainable development of the use of the Nile water, a draft (Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) was agreed upon which enshrines the rights of the countries on the banks of the river while Egypt will retain necessary rights.

Egypt and Sudan refuse to join the agreement on the grounds that the other countries must recognize the old agreement before discussing new agreements. Since until today there were no satisfactory results for the discussions, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania decided to ignore the "monopoly" and develop irrigation projects that would draw water from Lake Victoria. Since these projects do not significantly harm the flow of the Nile, the Egyptians do not react or relate to these projects. Also, along the tributaries of the river and around Lake Victoria, water is being pumped without the possibility of supervision or measurement.
The intention of the countries on the banks of the Nile is to "protect the river by maintaining the quality of the areas around it, preserving the soils, developing drainage and rainwater storage, developing economical irrigation methods, preventing the destruction of trees or planting and afforestation" and according to one of the entrepreneurs "preserving and properly managing the land ”, with the assumption that proper management will provide water to anyone who needs it.

The activities (and lack of activity) along the river are supposed to be directed by a series of articles and laws that I have no intention of going into because my point of view is the natural environment, how much the activity damages the environment and what can be done to prevent harm. Below are the existing and planned projects and the environmental problems caused by them.

In Uganda, the Owen Dam was built in 1949 (Uganda was then under a British mandate) with the intention of controlling the flow of the Nile by creating a reservoir that would supply water to the dam to generate electricity. The dam was built following an agreement with the Egyptians who demanded a comprehensive survey of the (African) basin lakes that form the sources of the Nile.

One of the branches of the (White) Nile is the Karaga River. In 1977: Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and Rwanda agreed to develop the Karaga basin while preserving the natural resources and preserving the environment in the basin that embraces the four countries.

The new country - South Sudan is rich in oil, but the oil wells are drying up and therefore South Sudan (like the Gulf principalities) is obliged to develop the branches of agriculture. In addition, today most of the food comes from Kenya and Uganda. Agriculture requires water and although water is not a scarce resource in South Sudan, there is a problem of transporting the water to areas where agricultural projects will be developed. In order to transport water, electricity is needed, therefore a "hydroelectric" plant is planned in the only place where there are significant height differences - along the river.

The Blue Nile in South Sudan flows almost along its entire length in the plain and only at its entry from Uganda are there waterfalls -
Nimola Falls, here they are planning a dam that will allow electricity generation. In the northern region of South Sudan called Jonglei, the French began digging a canal. In 1983 during the civil war, the Jonglei canal cushion that was supposed to drain the Sudd swamps was stopped. The intention was to create a straight channel where there would be a strong flow that would reduce evaporation and drain the Sod swamps, so more water would flow in the river. They probably did not think about the damage to local agriculture, fishing and the natural environment that the canal would cause.

The Sod is a hinterland for grazing cattle herds of Dinka and Nuer herders. The Sod is a nesting and breeding area for millions of birds, as one of the largest equatorial wetlands, the Sod is a special habitat whose disruption would be a disaster. To illustrate the dimensions of the disaster, let's compare the secret to the Hula swamps (which were dried up) with the small difference - the secret is a thousand times bigger than the Hula. The size of the wetland area changes with the seasons and ranges from 50 to 150 thousand square kilometers.

The conflict of interest is clear: the desire to increase the flow and the amount of water in the river against the environmental risk
For the biological diversity, for fish, for poultry and for everyone who makes a living from the Sod swamps.

In Sudan the branches of the White and Blue Nile join at Khartoum (hence the name). The Merowe Dam, whose construction was completed in 2009, supplies electricity to the city and its suburbs, but caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of Nubian residents.

The dam stops the silt that collects at the bottom, the silt raises the water level and causes the power generation capacity to decrease. Further on, the Nile crosses a desert area where the Sudanese are busy with failed attempts to develop agriculture. The attempts do not succeed because the dam robbed the farmers of the seasonal improvement of the soil by floods. Fishermen who lived by fishing in the river lacked fish and livelihood.

In the southwest of Sudan in the Darfur region lived about two million shepherds and farmers from the Fur tribe. The Sudanese destroyed an agricultural area where the Fur people lived (Darfur = home of the fur). For years, Muslim militias were engaged in evicting the residents of the Darfur region, demolishing their villages and destroying wells, demolishing irrigation systems ("hafir") and erecting embankments to block streams and wadis. These actions turned Midbor into an agricultural area and caused two million Darfurs to flee to refugee camps in neighboring Chad and the remaining to be at the mercy of Muslim militias. When you remember all this, it is difficult to take seriously the attempts to "bloom the desert" that are trying to stop the progress of the desert to the south. ‪ ‬

The new and more significant source of conflict is the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. In April 2011 at the height of the "Arab Spring", a period when the hawks were busy with various and other problems - the preparations for the construction of the dam began. This period made it possible for the Ethiopians to move forward quietly as they are bound by international laws (Harmon Doctrine) that allow sovereignty over the water that flows in their waters, without considering the effect on those who are down the river.

For the Egyptians bound by the 1929 agreement, the Renaissance Dam is a mortal danger. As the Egyptian ambassador in Ethiopia says, "For Egypt, the Nile is worth life." The Ethiopians claim that the dam is being built only for the purpose of generating electricity, part of which will be sold to the neighbors. Generating electricity without any other use of water will not harm the flow of water down the river. Furthermore, the Ethiopians claim that the construction of the dam will prevent silt from settling in the dams in Sudan and Egypt and will therefore benefit them (see reference to the silt matter below). The Egyptians claim, rightly, that after the construction of the dam is finished, it will take a long time to fill the reservoir that will feed the dam.

The flow in the Nile is estimated at about 85 billion cubic meters per year, the reservoir will hold about 63 billion cubic meters, which means that its filling will take about a year when the flow of water in Egypt (and northern Sudan) will weaken to less than 15% of the normal flow. almost a trickle. During this period the water will be salted and agriculture will be damaged in Egypt, the movement of ships will be stopped and the electricity output at the Aswan Dam will be reduced to a minimum. Even if the Ethiopians are "nice" and instead of filling the reservoir all at once, they let some of the water flow through the diversion channel (where the water has been flowing since the end of May), and even if the Ethiopians agree to fill the reservoir in seven years - still in these years the flow in the Nile will drop by 75% and will be severely damaged in all the activity down the river.

The Ethiopians claim that following the construction of the dam, the sedimentation of the Maru trade in Sudan and the Aswan Dam will stop. True, but it is worth remembering that until the Aswan Dam was built, it was the silt that nourished the agricultural fields of Egypt along the Nile. It is the silt whose lack causes the quality of the agricultural lands along the river in northern Sudan, it is the silt that every year lays down new layers in the Nile's alluvial fan, it is the silt whose lack causes the Nile Delta to sink.

When the Aswan Dam was built, they did not take into account the lack of drift down the river. Nor did they take into account the increased evaporation from the lake that was created - Lake Nasser. The area of ​​the lake is about 5000 square kilometers, the average evaporation in the area is 2 cm every day, which means more than seven meters a year. And so, according to Zahir's calculation, about 3.5 billion cubic meters are lost from Lake Nasser every year, which is about a fifth of the White Nile's capacity (about a third of the annual water consumption in our country).

Apparently the Russian engineers who built the dam came from areas where there is no need to take evaporation into account, and where silt in the river is considered a nuisance rather than a fertilizer and nutrient. The dam in Sudan was built by the Chinese and they really don't care one bit about the long-term environmental consequences. Millions of Sudanese and Egyptians are suffering from the results today.

It is possible to do as the Americans did at the Hoover Dam on the Colorado. From time to time, open the dam to a flow that will empty the silt that has collected at the back of the dam and deposit it along the river, but for this purpose facilities are needed that probably do not exist in the Aswan or Meru dams.

Finally, Israel. The Nile affects what happens in the east of the Mediterranean Sea. Until it was closed, the storm carried silt and sand, some of which reached our shores and "covered" the bottom, since the closure, no sand has arrived and the result is beaches that are getting smaller and smaller. The drift that reached the sea with the Nile contained nutrients that would increase the life systems in the sea. Without the drift, there is no food and this is one of the reasons for the depletion of fish in our environment.

And for all this it has already been said that the time has come that instead of controlling the environment for the sake of the human population, there will be control of the human population for the sake of the environment.

4 תגובות

  1. "The necessity to limit the birth is getting clearer every year. Every country will eventually come to the conclusion that there is no escape from this..." Haim, you are right, humanity will not stand "soon" before the painful decision to impose birth control, we are already in the midst of the results of the population explosion, one of which is the change in the weather, and the consequences of this are an increased demand for oil that consumes us from its side and changes the weather that from its side will bring us hunger and consume us as well, Except for the animals that are in the 6th extinction process on the planet. As for the profit for humanity from limiting births, there is no time for this experiment, we are in the middle of a process that cannot be stopped (the melting of the poles) when the 28 recirculating nutrients are already at work (for example, the melting of the poles reduces the rays of the sun back and the dark sea water absorbs more heat), due to the rise in surface The sea in the delta in Egypt has already begun to be shrewd and large areas are out of use. So it is true that the population explosion is the problem from which it all started, but even if we all become extinct (rather quickly on a historical scale) it will no longer help, the snowballs have already started and we have lost control.

  2. The necessity to limit the birth rate is becoming clearer every year.
    Every country will eventually come to the conclusion that there is no escaping it.
    Humanity will soon face the painful decision: to impose birth control on everything, including the various religious groups.
    The gain for humanity will be quick and priceless. Control over the economy, employment. Expanding education to all populations, improving nutrition, improving the environment. Eliminating the pressure for wars over land and resources.
    There is nothing to expect.

    Chaim P

  3. XNUMXrd grade calculus
    If it takes 63 billion cubic meters to fill the basin and the flow is 85 billion cubic meters per year, then if the reservoir is filled in 7 years, only about 10% of the flow is taken.

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