Utilizing Nile fairly for economic benefits
Africa though is a source of abundant renewable hydroelectric power; surprisingly the supply of electricity within the continent is still poor. The Continent, blessed with greatest rivers, such as Abay, Zaire and Limpopo, and a wealth of different potential energy sources, is still yelling for electricity and in short supply of electrical energy. Notably, a few African countries are in rapid growth and industrial development. However, they could not fully meet the demand of the power the economy requires.
To end this, Africa is now exploring and promoting the use of its renewable energy sources, mainly water, wind, sun power, and geothermal resources. In fact, to detach hundreds of millions of Africans who live in the darkness through utilizing these resources, it requires the highest political commitment of the governments.
That is why the Nile Basin countries have brought the Nile Basin Initiative 12 years ago with the aim of developing the Nile River for sustainable and equitable access to the water.
Member states have set their own goals in their Cooperative Framework. In line of this, generating sustainable energy supply and creating cross-border hydropower linkages within member states are few among the many goals stated in the Framework. This in turn, would create an opportunity for member countries to sell electricity and generate foreign currency. It would also assist neighboring countries lessen their power shortages.
Further than these economic advantages, it will bolster sustainable trade linkages among countries, build up trust and will enhance the culture of working together for common development. Thus, it is significant for Ethiopia as well as other countries to create a promising future and strengthening the linkage. The Nile Cooperation Framework member countries also made deliberations on the next practical application.
In line with this and realize the set goals, various projects are being implemented by the Cooperative Framework in relation to capacity building and technical support, technology transfer and financial cooperation, and modernizing water management policy.
In the Nile Basin Initiative, Executive Director of the Eastern Nile Technical, Regional Office (ENTRO), Fekahmed Negash, said among the many activities the Forum carried out in the past 12 years, ensuring the sustainability of water and food security, addressing the impact of climate change and cross border water management are few.
The Forums, according to Water, Irrigation and Electricity Minister Dr. Sileshi Bekele, have paved ways for the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Easter African countries to exchange experiences on electricity, downstream development, water management and utilization of the river equitably.
Activities are also on progress to create institutional system that coordinates and manages issues that may rise on the Nile River.
While six of the Nile Basin countries have signed the Nile Basin Initiative Cooperative Framework Agreement, three are still in the process. When all approve it, better activities would be carried out through establishing joint commission, the Minister hopes.
In turn, the Nile Basin countries will have the opportunity to develop the resource in more sustainable and equitable manner and ensure their benefits.
According to Dr. Engineer Sileshi Ethiopia, apart from generating power from the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), is working to mitigate climate change through increasing the amount of rainfall in the East Africa. This will play a decisive role in reducing the level of evaporation caused by rising temperatures in Egypt and Sudan.
The International Water Management Institute Researcher Matthew McCartney also said that the GERD would ensure water security through monitoring the flow of the Abay water which is highly dependent on rainwater and sustaining the same flow during the summer or winter season. This in turn has significant advantage for the lower riparian countries, and secures the countries from the effects of flood on rainy seasons.
The Nile Basin Cooperative Forum studied various collaborative projects, and electricity trade is one among the others. In line with this, practical activities have already commenced to begin trade of power in the Eastern Nile, particularly among Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan.
The Renaissance Dam, apart from generating enough power, would have crucial roles in securing the basin countries from flood. In earlier times, Sudan and Egypt were over flooded caused by high level of Abay's water in rainy seasons. As a result, human life was lost and properties damaged. Especially, Sudan has to spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually to sweep silts from dams, canals and farmings. The GERD, in this regard, has the potential to erode up to 90 percent of the silt. Equally, Ethiopia's natural resource conservation works have greater benefit to mitigate this problem through blocking silts from entering into the dam.
The GERD, which is the greatest Dam in Africa, when finalized, is expected to generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity annually. Though it is said that it will be completed within seven years time, at the end of its sixth year, the construction has reached 65 percent. Even, most of its basic part is said to have been completed.
Most of the region’s populations are living in poverty. Climate change is also the biggest challenge. To cope with these challenges, the countries need to develop the water cooperatively and in equitable manner. Particularly, for the river basin countries, as it has been repeatedly expressed, utilizing the River equitably, cooperatively and with shared goals is the only alternative. It is also indicated that the Nile River, which had not been used up to date, is of great potential to the countries to fulfill the basic needs of their citizens and expand infrastructure.
The Agreement, established based on the social and economic needs of the basin countries, has been undertaking activities with the goals of benefiting those citizens whose livelihood is dependent on the River, safeguarding water sources, protecting from harm, and developing them. However, to efficiently exploit the resource, the cooperation among basin countries should be further strengthened.