Egyptians Oppose Ethiopian Dam


“Ethiopia is killing us,” Egyptian taxi driver Ahmed Hossam says. “If they build this dam, there will be no Nile. If there’s no Nile, then there’s no Egypt.” (National Geographic News)

Use our resources to better understand how stakeholders reflect the diversity of economic, political, geographic, and environmental conflicts inherent in dam-building.

Discussion Ideas

  • Read through our lesson “Making Informed Environmental Decisions,” which concerns another dam being constructed by Ethiopia (Gilgel Gibe III, on the Omo River in the south of the country). The entire lesson is relevant, from identifying stakeholders, working through a decision-making process, investigating the consequences of environmental decisions, and creating an effective decision statement.
  • (From the lesson) Review the NG News article and Financial Times video above. Using a form similar to this one, can you identify some stakeholders in the debate surrounding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam?
    • Ethiopia and other nations upstream of the Nile (Different communities in Ethiopia may have competing interests, such as urban dwellers who rely on electricity and rural subsistence farmers who fear losing their land. Raising the billions of dollars required to complete the project has also divided the financially strapped nation.)
    • Egypt. (Egypt claims it will lose 40% of electricity produced by the Aswan High Dam, a major source of power for the country.)
    • Sudan. (Sudan has competing interests. Like Egypt, it is downstream from the dam and will lose access to water. However, it will be able to buy cheap electricity from Ethiopia and has agreed to construct an airbase for Egypt near the Ethiopian border.)
    • China, whose state-owned company Sinohydro is constructing the dam.
    • the Oromo (Ethiopian immigrant) community in Egypt.
    • the environment. Neither the NG News article nor the Financial Times video address the impact on the riparian environment of the Nile, the desert habitat into which the river is being diverted, or the indigenous species of both.
  • Identify some rivers that cross international borders. (Use our MapMaker Interactive for some help.) Are there historic or ongoing conflicts among nations bordering these rivers?
    • Yes. No matter what river you identified, the answer is yes. The Nile and Omo Rivers are in eastern Africa. Here are some examples on other continents:
      • North America: The United States (upstream) and Mexico (downstream) have competing interests for the water resources of the Colorado River. NG Emerging Explorer Osvel Hinojosa Huerta is working to restore the Mexican delta of the Colorado, while respecting the political and economic stakeholders on both sides of the border.
      • South America: Brazil, Paraguay (upstream) and Argentina (downstream) had competing dam projects on the Parana River in the 1970s. All three were eventually completed, with Argentina’s Yacyreta Dam operating far below the capacity of Brazil-Paraguay’s enormous Itaipu Dam.
      • Europe: The nations of Slovakia and Hungary agreed to create a series of dams on the Danube River. Slovakia diverted the river, creating environmental and economic consequences for Hungary. The dispute is unresolved.
      • Asia: The outflow of the Ganges River has brought India (upstream) and Bangladesh (downstream) into dispute since the nations of India and Pakistan were established in 1947. (Bangladesh was part of Pakistan until 1971.) India and Bangladesh signed a 30-year water-sharing agreement in 1996, although critics question the long-term consequences of India’s Farakka Barrage (a dam).
      • (Australia and Antarctica don’t have rivers that cross international borders, so there are no international river disputes!)

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