The second-most serious problem confronting Africa, about which 90 percent of Americans have zero knowledge, is the Ethiopian-planned, Chinese-financed, Italian-constructed, Israel-supported scheme to block the Nile with an already partially completed, started-in-2011 dam to divert water from the river before it reaches Egypt and Sudan. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has cost nearly $5 billion, with Ethiopia starting to fill it last summer because of the rainy season.
Egypt’s civilization has flourished along the Nile since ancient times, perhaps even owing its continuing existence as a nation to this precious source of water, one could say. It was a master of hydrological civil engineering, long before the term was born. The last serious damming of the Nile was the Aswan Dam, which created Lake Nasser, now holding 5 billion gallons of water.
At present, rainfall around the ancient capital of Luxor averages around an inch per year. Imagine what another dam on the Nile could do to this area. To the west is Egypt’s harsh and intractable Western Desert, a premonition of what this entire length of the Nile could look like after the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project is up and running, and for what reason?
Even in the rainy season in January, the gullies (or wadis) show no sign of vegetation. The alluvial strip is at most 12 miles wide, entirely derived from the Nile. This would turn the Nile Region into a desert as harsh as Rub’ al Khali in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman, the Grand Erg in Tunisia, Algeria and Libya, and the Turfan Depression and the Takla Makan Desert in China.
Clearly, the lack of information about this in the mainstream media (the New York Times did publish an extensive piece and photographs on Feb. 9) on this impending disaster becomes enormously difficult for both Egypt and the two Sudans, which will become victims of this plan that benefits Ethiopian agriculture and development interests.
Without water, it is not unreasonable to believe people will lose their livelihoods. What would happen to the displaced Egyptians and Sudanese, those who survive? The countries involved, despite the dam being filled, still have not come to agreement on dam operations, even with U.S.-brokered talks.
We don’t have any quick answers. A discussion soon between United Nations Secretary General António Guteres and the Permanent Representatives of North Sudan, South Sudan, Egypt, Italy, Ethiopia and Israel is imperative. Such talks could be pivotal in preventing the emerging, inevitable conflict over scarce water resources.
The world needs to assess the difficult times ahead and try to formulate more paths to a just and equitable future, rather than seeing Egypt and its 6,000 years of culture, as well as the Sudans, dry up and expire. After all, 6,000 years is less than 8,000 — and the world saw Aleppo’s 8,000-year history destroyed by Russian bombs.
Stephen Fox, founder of New Millennium Fine Art, is laying the foundation for a United Nations Information Center Santa Fe, which would be the third in North America, after Washington, D.C., and Mexico City.