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Ed Webb

Egypt-Sudan Spat Muddies Prospects for Deal on Big Nile Dam - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • diplomatic spat between Egypt and Sudan is spilling over into the long-running dispute over a dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River, which Cairo sees as an existential threat
  • Sudan officially warned of threats to its eastern border from massing Egyptian and Eritrean troops, while Egypt has also moved into a disputed triangle of territory claimed by both Cairo and Khartoum. Late last week, Sudan abruptly recalled its ambassador to Egypt, the latest chapter in a fight that started last summer with trade boycotts and that has only intensified in recent weeks
  • Sudan’s support for Ethiopia’s construction of a massive $5 billion dam on the Nile River that could choke off vital supplies of water downstream. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called the dam a matter of “life or death.”
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  • dam is more than 60 percent complete, and Ethiopia could start to fill the reservoir as soon as this summer, leaving little time to find workable solutions
  • The dam, a huge power project at the head of the Blue Nile meant to meet fast-growing Ethiopia’s need for more electricity, will hold a year’s worth of river flow behind its concrete walls. Depending on how quickly Ethiopia fills the dam, downstream flows to Egypt could be restricted — a potentially fatal threat for a country dependent on agriculture that is already facing severe water shortages.
  • The three countries seemed to have sorted things out in 2015 with an agreement on how to manage the project, but since then they have been unable to agree on how to even measure the dam’s impacts.
  • Sudan’s role is crucial, because it is smack in the middle of Egypt and Ethiopia geographically and politically. Egypt and Sudan have long divvied up the Nile’s waters between them, according to the terms of a 1959 treaty that does not include Ethiopia. By using less Nile River water than it was allotted, for years Sudan allowed more to flow downstream to Egypt, which has used more water than it is entitled to. But in recent years, Sudan has sought to increase its own water use, aiming to boost its agriculture sector. Because it hopes to use the dam for irrigation, Sudan has moved closer to Ethiopia and become a supporter of the project. That makes antagonizing Khartoum a dangerous gambit for Egypt
  • the United States — still saddled with plenty of unfilled positions at the State Department — hasn’t been able to mediate the dispute
Ed Webb

MERIP Water in the middle East 2020 - 1 views

  • As a result of these climatic conditions, there is little surface water. The lines of rivers threading across the map of the region are few and far between. The arid climate also means that where there are stores of water below the surface, those aquifers are not being replenished very quickly. In some cases, aquifers are not being replenished at all; these fossil aquifers date back hundreds of thousands of years to past epochs when the region’s climate was wetter.
  • When it comes to water, the Middle East is a region of superlatives: the highest proportion of a population exposed to water stress, the least sustainable water resource use, the most water scarce region in the world. This simplistic narrative contains some truth.
  • The Middle East and North Africa also contains mountain chains where vegetation is lush and winters wet. Morocco’s Rif mountains, for example, receive over a meter of rainfall a year (for comparison, that is more than the Adirondacks). Around the Mediterranean Sea, too, climates are milder and rainfall higher. It sometimes snows in Damascus. Furthermore, even some dry parts of the region have significant water resources flowing through them, originating in wetter climes. Egypt’s southern city of Aswan, for instance, only receives 1mm of rainfall a year, but sits on the banks of the Nile, the longest river in the world. Depictions of the Middle East as water scarce, therefore, must be nuanced by an appreciation of the region’s varied geographies.
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  • The particularly high growth rates in some countries—Iraq, Bahrain and Palestine—are not matched in all countries
  • Migration and forced displacement also shape population distributions.
  • The broad characterization of the region as water scarce and people rich, on the other hand, tells a simple and powerful story. It is a story that is reinforced by a commonly used indicator, the Falkenmark Water Stress Index. This easily calculable figure is a ratio of the total renewable freshwater resources available in a country to the number of people. If the index is less than 1,000 cubic meters per capita per year, it denotes a situation of water scarcity; if it is less than 500 cubic meters per capita per year, it indicates conditions of absolute water scarcity. According to this indicator, the region does not look good. Most of the countries are facing either scarcity or absolute s car ci t y.
  • Water scarcity is not so much about how much water there is and more about what it is being used f or
  • an archetypal Malthusian narrative. Eighteenth century scholar Thomas Malthus proposed that the combination of a limited resource base, only growing at an arithmetic rate, and an expanding population, growing at a geometric rate, would inevitably lead to a point where the system’s capacity to support that population was exceeded and crisis would result. This notion, so simplistic and yet so enduring, undergirds much of the writing about water in the Middle East
  • A larger population means more people drinking, cleaning their homes and bodies, washing clothes and cooking. These daily activities do not, however, require all that much water relative to other water uses
  • n annual allocation of 20 cubic meters per capita is sufficient to cover consumption and basic hygiene needs
  • In cities like Amman and Beirut, many neighborhoods only receive running water for a few hours a day; in war-torn Yemen, millions lack access to clean water. But the lack experienced by some is more due to the inadequacy of the infrastructures for delivering potable water and removing wastewater than the insufficiency of the resource per se
  • producing more food does not always require more water. There are techniques of applying water to the soil that are less water intensive, allowing for what water specialists term “more crop per drop.”
  • Agriculture consumes the greatest amount of water by far, globally. This pattern is particularly pronounced in the Middle East, where low rainfall across much of the region makes irrigation a necessity for cultivation. Agriculture uses 85 percent of the region’s water.
  • food imports can be seen as a source of “virtual water.”
  • more about politics than population. The reason why Saudi Arabia long subsidized wheat production in the desert with water drawn from fossil aquifers, for instance, was not because it needed to produce more food for a growing population. Instead, this policy was about the government’s interest in becoming more self-sufficient so as to decrease its reliance on other countries and the associated vulnerabilities.
  • there is no direct correlation between population size and agricultural water use. Narratives of population-driven water crises should always be approached with caution
  • Many lower income residents, or people living in informal settlements, lack access to sufficient drinking water and sanitation. Populations in motion, too, can generate challenges for water managers. Refugee camps, for instance, which are amalgamations of people in spaces that were not necessarily designed to support those numbers, often struggle to provide enough water for their displaced population’s day-to-day uses.
  • Efforts to integrate climate change adaptation into water management plans are hampered by more pressing political priorities,
  • A number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa rely on transboundary water resources. The high degree of reliance is evident in an indicator known as the dependency ratio, which is the proportion of a nation’s freshwater resources—both surface and groundwater—that comes from outside that country. Syria and Iraq depend on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which rise in the mountainous region of southeastern Turkey. Egypt sources most of its water from the Nile, a river basin that spans 11 countries. Jordan’s two main surface water resources, the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers, are shared with its neighbors. Israel taps into surface and groundwater resources that traverse borders with the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria. Kuwait and Bahrain’s groundwater reserves are fed by water flowing laterally underground from Saudi Arabia.
  • available water resources of the Middle East and North Africa are also shifting due to anthropogenic climate change
  • Climate models are consistent in their projections that temperatures across the region are increasing and will continue to do so in coming decades. Higher temperatures mean higher evapotranspiration rates —plants, in other words, will drink more water—and larger losses from open surfaces like reservoirs. Demand from the most water intensive sector, agriculture, will increase.
  • studies suggest that the variability and uncertainty in rainfall timing and intensity is increasing
  • the rise in sea level poses a risk of coastal flooding in deltas, like that of the Shatt al-Arab, on the border of Iraq and Iran, and the Nile Delta as well as other lowlying areas along the Mediterranean coastline
  • In the case of shared aquifers, the added uncertainties surrounding groundwater volumes and flows compound the challenges.
  • despite the dramatic appeal of the idea of a water war, most scholars agree that the concept is misleading. Wars typically have much more complicated origins than a single causal factor, like water. Intrastate disputes over water may be more significant than interstate conflicts. Moreover, a shared resource does not necessarily have to be a source of tension; it can be a source of cooperation
  • Countries in the more arid parts of the Middle East have championed technologies for producing more water. The Gulf states and Israel, for instance, have been leaders in desalination. In these countries, desalinated water now meets the majority of domestic water needs
  • Many of the region’s water bodies are contaminated with sewage, agricultural chemicals and industrial waste,
  • Public awareness campaigns urge residents to conserve water, take shorter showers, turn off the faucet when brushing their teeth, not leave the water running when cleaning dishes and avoid washing their cars
  • Although initiatives are underway to develop solar-powered desalination, these projects are still in their infancy
  • These uses are so small relative to agriculture, though, that their impact is limited.
  • In many countries of the region, farmers reuse agricultural drainage water. If municipal and industrial waste is properly treated, it too can be reused
  • experts have advised authorities to raise the price of water. In most countries of the region, water is priced significantly below its cost of delivery. In some cases, it is free. Egyptian farmers, for instance, do not pay for the water they use on their fields (although they do pay other irrigation-related costs, such as energy for pumps). If they had to pay for water, economists argue, they would not use so much
  • While these measures can be effective at reducing water consumption and easing scarcity, they impose costs and can increase rural poverty without other forms of social protection and support for small farmers. They also risk ignoring the larger contextual factors that shape water use in a home, factory or farm. Policies that seek to mandate a technology, price or behavioral change for the sake of saving water, without recognizing the priorities and perspectives of those who use this water on a daily basis, are unlikely to be successful
  • the challenge of water scarcity and the experience of many within the region who struggle to find sufficient, clean water for their everyday needs and livelihoods is as much about economic priorities, social inequalities and political relations as it is a function of the region’s geography
Ed Webb

US tech firm turns Dubai desert air into bottled water - Arabianbusiness - 0 views

  • Instead of drilling wells or purifying seawater, it will wring moisture from the air to create bottled water at a plant 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Dubai
  • Zero Mass Water, will use renewable energy instead of the fossil fuels that power the many desalination facilities in Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates
  • The bottling plant is run on solar, the bottles we use are recyclable and the caps are sustainable,” said Samiullah Khan, general manager at IBV, an Emirati firm that will buy the water. The caps will be made from bamboo
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  • Zero Mass isn’t going to rival bulk water processors any time soon. It will initially only be able to produce up to 2.3 million litres annually - about the volume of a typical Olympic swimming pool. The technology is still much more expensive than desalination for the same output of water. So Zero Mass’s will be in the same bracket as imported, high-end brands such as Evian and Fiji
  • The rectangular boxes - measuring around 2.4 meters (8 feet) by 1.2 meters - absorb water vapour and extract it using solar energy. Although they can operate almost anywhere the sun shines, Dubai’s hot and humid climate makes the emirate a prime location, according to Cody Friesen, founder of Zero Mass
  • The panels have dust filters and use a chemical compound that only captures water molecules, ensuring the water is purified even when the air is polluted.
  • Gulf nations want to reduce their heavy dependence on food imports, especially with the coronavirus pandemic disrupting global supply chains. This month the UAE imported 4,500 dairy cows from Uruguay to boost milk production. It’s also trying to farm rice locally, the success of which will largely depend on using sustainable amounts of water.
  • Water-from-air is only suitable for farming in enclosed environments such as warehouses
  • “With hydroponics, it’s a huge advantage to be using very pure water to begin with,” said Wahlgren. “If you’re using desalinated water, there’s still quite a large salt component, which can be harmful to the plants.”
Ed Webb

Ethiopia and Egypt Are Already at War Over the Nile Dam. It's Just Happening in Cyberspace. - 0 views

  • the group calling themselves the Cyber_Horus Group in late June hacked more than a dozen Ethiopian government sites, replacing each page with their own creation: an image of a skeleton pharaoh, clutching a scythe in one hand and a scimitar in the other. “If the river’s level drops, let all the Pharaoh’s soldiers hurry,” warned a message underneath. “Prepare the Ethiopian people for the wrath of the Pharaohs.”
  • Rarely have young people been so passionate about an infrastructure project. But the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which will be Africa’s largest, is more than just a piece of infrastructure. It has become a nationalistic rallying cry for both Ethiopia and Egypt—two countries scrambling to define their nationhood after years of domestic upheaval. Many Ethiopians and Egyptians are getting involved in the only way they can—online—and fomenting the first African cyberconflict of its kind, one with far-reaching and long-lasting consequences.
  • Today, there are several entries for the GERD on Google Maps, most earning middling 3 to 4 stars ratings, buoyed by five-star ratings with feedback such as, “One of the great architectural dam in the World!” but weighed down by one-star complaints including, “You’re gonna make us die from thirst.”
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  • Tensions escalated this year, as the U.S.-brokered negotiations between Ethiopia and Egypt unraveled and new talks mediated by the African Union began
  • The Ethiopian government does broadly engage in “computational propaganda,” according to a 2019 report from the Oxford Internet Institute. Agencies there use human-run social media accounts to spread pro-government propaganda, attack the opposition, and troll users. The same goes for the Egyptian government.
  • Social media users from the two countries frequently collide on the Internet, but seem to do so most often on Adel el-Adawy’s Twitter page: As a member of a prominent Egyptian political dynasty, a professor at the American University in Cairo, and the most visible disseminator of the Egyptian perspective on the dam in English, he has amassed a significant following. Adawy, whose pinned tweet is a picture of himself shaking hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, posts frequently about the Nile and Ethiopian affairs, especially when things get sticky.
  • It’s possible that the engagement is coming from concerned Ethiopians at home and abroad, at the encouragement but not the behest of Ethiopian officials. “I have friends who joined Twitter just for the sake of this. It’s highly emotional and nationalistic,” said Endalkachew Chala, an Ethiopian communications professor at Hamline University in Minnesota.
  • Construction of the dam was completed in July, and the filling of its reservoir started soon after amid heavy rains but before an agreement between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan was signed. The U.S. government, a top source of aid for both Ethiopia and Egypt, said in August that it would halt some aid to Ethiopia over what it saw as a unilateral move to progress with the dam.
  • For both countries—Egypt since the 2011 fall of Mubarak and Ethiopia since the 2012 death of strongman Prime Minister Meles Zenawi—national identity has been in flux
  • the first known time these kinds of digital tools have been used by people from one African country against people from another, said Gilbert Nyandeje, founder and CEO of the Africa Cyber Defense Forum. “It only means one thing. It means we should expect this more and more.”
  • at the core of Egyptian identity is the Nile, so bolstering nationalism means defending the Nile, too. And officials have encouraged this outlook: One sleekly produced video shared on Facebook by the Ministry of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs warned, “More than 40 million Egyptians are facing the threat of drought and thirst.… The cause of water shortage is Ethiopia building a dam five times bigger than its needs.”
  • a show of vulnerability rare in Arab power politics. But the strategy has helped garner global sympathy for Egypt, even as its Nile claims are framed by Ethiopia as the result of unjust colonial-era agreements in which Egypt’s interests were represented by British colonizers.
  • the dam provided a unifying issue around which Ethiopians of all ethnic backgrounds could rally. “We do have a lot of divisions—ideological, ethnic, tribal, religious,” said Chala, the Ethiopian professor. “But even though we have these bitter divisions, Ethiopians have overwhelmingly supported this Nile dam especially on social media.”
  • Ethiopian officials, meanwhile, continue to encourage Ethiopians to post about the dam online and often use the #ItsMyDam hashtag in their own social media posts. This use of social media to rally around the dam has also meant that Ethiopia’s massive global diaspora can get involved, without having to worry about frequent in-country Internet shutdowns that otherwise curtail online movements there.
  • The thousands of Ethiopian refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants living in Egypt are now facing greater pressure and harassment from Egyptian citizens and authorities since the dam tensions started to heat up
  • in Ethiopia, it has meant that any domestic criticism of the dam from an environmentalist point of view—namely, that it could disrupt ecosystems and biodiversity, even within Ethiopia—is met with derision
  • for both countries, surging nationalist sentiment means that it’s harder for officials to agree to, and for the public to accept, compromise
  • the main sticking points now are related to dispute resolution, drought contingency plans, and future upstream projects. And yet, much of the online rhetoric remains maximalist, even rejecting items that have already been unanimously decided—such as the existence of an Ethiopian Nile dam in any form—raising the possibility that the online tensions and attacks may not subside anytime soon
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