Next on Egypt’s to-do: Ethiopia and the Nile

Water ministers meet in Sudan for latest round of talks on how to share Africa’s fabled river.

Play a game of word association almost anywhere in the world, and if you try the word “Nile”, the answer will be “Egypt”. Herodotus famously said the country was a gift of the fabled river, and it’s no exaggeration – given that Egypt is almost totally dependent on the Nile for water and agriculture.

But upstream of Cairo, there’s a country where the answer to the word association wouldn’t be Egypt – where the people don’t even call the river the Nile, and where more than 85 percent of the river’s water originates. That place is Ethiopia, and it has enraged Egypt by starting to build a huge dam on the river.

The dam itself, which will be used to generate hydropower, is a beast. It will generate 6,000 megawatts of power and stand 170 metres high and 1,800 metres wide, making it the biggest dam in Africa and the 13th biggest in the world. Ethiopia calls it the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and its government and people see it as just that – a reassertion of historic Ethiopian wealth and influence.

Upriver from the construction site in northwestern Ethiopia sits the small hamlet of Gish Abay. There you can find the three small trickles of water, hidden behind a few tufts of grass, that are believed to be the source of the Blue Nile, the tributary from which the vast majority of Nile water flows.

Al Jazeera visited those trickles shortly after Ethiopia announced plans for the dam in 2011 and saw lines of priests and locals snake up and down a field leading to the springs, clutching jerrycans and bottles filled with the water that they believe to be holy – even magic. Here, the local people call the river “Tis Abbay”. They fully understand its importance and said they backed the government’s plan to harness its power with a dam.

Source : Aljazeela

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