High Level Meeting on Equitable Utilization of Nile Water Begins in Addis

ADDIS ABABA – A high-level conference on equitable and reasonable utilization of the Nile basin water resources has begun today.

Participants from riparian countries, academics, and researchers are attending the three-day conference being held in Addis Ababa.

In his opening remarks, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Demeke Mekonnen mentioned two major issues that are preventing the sustainable use of the Nile river among the riparian countries.

The river basin, he said, has been threatened by the ever-increasing water demand due to population growth, environmental degradation, and climate change, among other things.

On the other hand, the tendency to assert hegemony over the shared water resource continues to be a barrier to the equitable and sensible utilization of the Nile waters, Demeke emphasized.

Despite challenges, the minister said the upper riparian states “have made modest strides to conserve the shared resource while trying to ensure fairness in its utilization.”

These efforts have led to the establishment of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) and the opening for the signature of the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA).

In addition to this collective effort, the Minister said Ethiopia has supported basin-wide development and restoration push within the framework of the CFA.

Demeke also briefed about the developments of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the Green Legacy Initiative that saw Ethiopia plant billions of tree seedlings including areas alongside the Blue Nile.

“Unfortunately, a pure development project with clear targets for clean energy production has been subjected to undue politicization and pressure, even though it does not entail any significant harm to any riparian country,” he told the attendants of the high-level meeting.

“This is yet another indication of why we need to expedite the setting up of a basin-wide legal and institutional framework,” he added.

The NBI member states – Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda – came up with the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA)  in 2010 after a decade-long negotiations.

The agreement – subject to ratification- aims to establish a legal framework to promote “harmonious utilization of the water resources of the Basin”, among others.

It also envisages the establishment of a  Nile River Basin Commission with the purpose of facilitating the implementation of the CFA as well as cooperation in the conservation, management, and development of the Basin and its waters.

Six countries have since signed the agreement also known as the Entebbe Agreement while four of the six signatories ratified it.

The same countries that oppose Ethiopia’s hydroelectric Dam, Sudan and Egypt also rejected the Cooperative Framework Agreement.

The Treaty will, however, enter into force after six countries have ratified or acceded to the document and deposited it with the African Union.