Egyptian water minister: Nile is vital to us, but we cannot stop Ethiopian dam

Egyptian water minister: Nile is vital to us, but we cannot stop Ethiopian dam
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on River Nile.
Updated 06 December 2017

Egyptian water minister: Nile is vital to us, but we cannot stop Ethiopian dam

Egyptian water minister: Nile is vital to us, but we cannot stop Ethiopian dam

CAIRO: Egypt has “many alternatives” to deal with the stalled technical negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) with Ethiopia and Sudan, Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Ati has said.
“We have many alternatives in between the two impossible alternatives; to dispense with the Nile water and not to build the dams altogether," he said. There are other ways to negotiate, and Egypt has started many of these ways, but they cannot be declared,” the Egyptian minister said on Saturday during a visit to the northern governorate of Dakahlia.
The minister said that Egypt could not prevent the construction of the dam, but it also could not afford any substantial deficiency in its historical share of water.
“We have to admit that the dam is damaging to Egypt. We are currently working on making this damage, which will lower Egypt's share of water, not serious. We will not allow this to happen.”
Abdel Ati said that the Nile is not just a water resource, echoing Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi's statements that the Nile for Egypt is a matter of life or death.
“We are a desert country and we rely on 97 percent of water from outside the border, both in terms of the share of the Nile and the groundwater shared by Egypt, Libya, Sudan and Chad,” he said.
“The rate of consumption of irrigation water in Egypt is 80 billion cubic meters, and only 60 billion is available,” Abdel Ati said. “We compensate for the difference with waste water treatment. Egypt’s share of water is stable while its population is growing at a high rate.”
He predicted that the population of Egypt will reach about 170 million in 2050, up from the current 100 million.
Abdel Ati said that desalination was not a substitute to compensate Egypt for any substantial shortage of its share of Nile water during the years of filling the dam. He stressed that Ethiopia has not yet started filling the dam, noting that Egypt had sent a warning to Ethiopia not to start filling the dam this year.
In a letter of good faith to the Nile basin states, the Egyptian minister said that his country participated during the 1950s in building dams in Uganda and Sudan. “Egypt does not mind building dams provided there is consensus,” he said.
He added that Egypt sent a letter to the World Bank on behalf of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to finance the first detailed feasibility study for the construction of a dam on the Blue Nile, but in 2011 Ethiopia announced the construction of the GERD with different specifications.
This prompted the then Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to visit Ethiopia and meet Prime Minister Meles Zenawi Asres. They agreed to form an international committee, whose findings showed a lack of sufficient studies. Based on the recommendations of the international committee, there have been changes to the construction of the dam.
Abdul Ati explained that the the dispute in technical negotiations related to two points. The first is “the baseline for the criterion of water-sharing of the Nile that must be committed by the two French consultancy firms (BRL and Artelia) which prepare technical studies on the effects of the dam on both Egypt and Sudan.”
The initial report prepared by BRL and Artelia was adopted by Egypt and Sudan. Both Ethiopia and Sudan objected to the 1959 agreement signed between Egypt and Sudan, which determines their share of the Nile water that reaches to Aswan city in southern Egypt.
The second point of contention concerns the way Ethiopia wants to fill the dam.
According to sources familiar with the technical negotiations, Ethiopia wants to complete filling the dam, which has a capacity of about 74 billion cubic meters of water, in a maximum of 3 years, while Egypt is demanding that the filling should be carried out from 7 to 9 years so as not to significantly affect the share of Nile water.
The Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation had managed the technical negotiations on the effects of the GERD and the terms of its filling since September 2014 until Minister Mohamed Abdel Ati announced the deadlock on Nov. 13.
Since then, several official statements issued by Egypt confirmed that ignoring the country’s historical share of the Nile cannot be tolerated, and called for more political negotiations between the leaders of the three countries after technical negotiations failed.
Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation explained that the issue of the Nile River is the issue of all Egyptian state institutions, and any decision will be taken by all these institutions.
He said: “Egypt has taken great strides toward securing its sources of water and guaranteeing its historical and strategic right in the Nile waters.”
On the other hand, Ethiopia and Sudan are demanding the resumption of technical negotiations, considered by many officials and irrigation experts in Egypt to be a ploy to gain time until the completion of the dam and the start of filling it by the next flood season.
The Egyptian Minister of Irrigation said last week, on the sidelines of the Fourth Arab Water Forum, that Egypt had decided to freeze the technical negotiations on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) after the declaration of principles signed with Ethiopia and Sudan in Khartoum was derailed.
The minister said that Egypt had tried to make the construction of the dam a point of cooperation, not a source of disagreement. In the light of these attempts, Egypt had signed the Declaration of Principles, but the other side had not reached a solution.
“Egypt’s water security is an integral part of its national security,” Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit said at the forum. “Egypt is following the talks with great concern, because Ethiopia does not have enough inclination for cooperation and coordination. Its plans remain vague and worrisome.”
Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Ambassador to Egypt Taye Atseke-Selassie met with members of the African Affairs Committee of the Egyptian Parliament on Nov. 27.
The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry described the meeting as successful with talks that focused on ways to strengthen relations between the two countries.
The head of the committee, Dr. Al-Sayyed Fleifel, said that the visit was made at the request of the Ethiopian ambassador to discuss the cooperation between the two parliaments and in preparation for the visit of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to Cairo this month.
He added that the meeting with the Ethiopian Ambassador was within the framework of building confidence and a spirit of cooperation.
He said that the members of the committee stressed that any Ethiopian project should not affect Egypt’s share of the Nile water or the interests of the Egyptian people.
“The Ethiopian ambassador stressed the interest of his country to continue to negotiate and not to harm Egypt during the period of filling the reservoir of the dam,” he said, but reiterated that his country (Ethiopia) will continue to build the dam regardless of any differences.
Fleifel said the committee told the Ethiopian ambassador about “the sensitivity of the Egyptians to any water projects” and demanded that “the visit of the Ethiopian prime minister should reassure the Egyptians about the dam.”
Fleifel said that “Egypt’s current share does not represent more than 5 percent of Nile resources and this quota should be increased.”
He added that the Ethiopian ambassador highlighted the joint management of the dam as it was a trilateral project and did not belong to one country.
The committee also conveyed to the Ethiopian ambassador the concern of the Egyptians about the growing mutual visits between Qatari and Ethiopian officials, especially as Qatar supports some terrorist groups in Egypt, according to Fleifel.
The Ethiopian ambassador said that his country’s recent visit to Qatar, which coincided with the announcement of the stalemate of the technical negotiations, had been scheduled earlier and had nothing to do with developments in negotiations on the dam.
On Dec. 4, 19 Egyptian Parliament members declared their rejection of the Ethiopian prime minister’s visit to the Egyptian Parliament in December, which they called “dangerous.”
They said the visit gave an advantage to the Ethiopian side, "which spares no effort to promote instigation against Egypt in all international forums, relying on the legal, political and economic lies that negatively affect the issue of the Nile waters as it is an issue of Egyptian national security and is a red line.”


Greek FM visits Egypt in lead-up to Saudi Arabia visit

Greek FM visits Egypt in lead-up to Saudi Arabia visit
Foreign ministers from Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and adviser to the president of the UAE Anwar Gargash hold a press conference in Paphos on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 35 min 31 sec ago

Greek FM visits Egypt in lead-up to Saudi Arabia visit

Greek FM visits Egypt in lead-up to Saudi Arabia visit
  • Diplomatic move by Athens against backdrop of Libyan situation, tension with Turkey

CAIRO: Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias arrived in Egypt on Sunday during a tour leading up to a visit to Saudi Arabia. It comes within the framework of a diplomatic move by Athens against the backdrop of the situation in Libya and tension with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.

Dendias tweeted on Saturday: “Yesterday I was in Cyprus to participate in the quartet meeting with Emirates, Israel and Cyprus, and I will go tomorrow to Cairo, and on Tuesday to Saudi Arabia, while I will participate on Monday in the European Council meeting.”
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry held talks with Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias on his arrival in Cairo. They dealt with the bilateral ties between the countries and ways of enhancing them, in addition to the trilateral cooperation between Egypt, Greece and Cyprus, and regional and international issues of common concern.
Last February, foreign ministers participating in the “Friendship Forum” in Athens, which included Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Greece and Cyprus, in the absence of Jordan, stressed the importance of stability in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean region.
Participants said that “discussion of confronting provocative acts and violations in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean was held.”
Saudi Arabia and Greece carried out a joint air exercise, “Eye of the Falcon 1,” in Crete, with the aim of refining and developing the skills of the air crew and technical division, and raising the combat readiness of their air forces. This was in addition to exchanging military expertise in the implementation and planning of air operations.

FASTFACT

Saudi Arabia and Greece carried out a joint air exercise, ‘Eye of the Falcon 1,’ in Crete, with the aim of refining and developing the skills of the air crew and technical division, and raising the combat readiness of their air forces.

Greek and Turkish disputes over maritime rights continue in the eastern Mediterranean region, with each side claiming encroachment on their maritime areas, while Arab countries condemn what they describe as Turkish military intervention in several Arab countries such as Iraq, Libya and Syria.
The two ministers held a consultation session in Cairo to address common regional issues.
The Greek foreign minister tweeted through his official account on Twitter that he and his Egyptian counterpart discussed bilateral relations and developments in the eastern Mediterranean.
Spokesperson for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Ahmed Hafez, said that the talks between the two ministers dealt with issues of bilateral cooperation and regional issues that were a priority for both countries.
The Greek minister’s visit is the second in less than a month and a half. He is discussing with Egyptian officials bilateral cooperation and reviewing the latest developments within common political files, most notably the eastern Mediterranean, Libya, as well as Syria.


Masks come off as Israel vaunts virus victory

Masks come off as Israel vaunts virus victory
Updated 39 min 43 sec ago

Masks come off as Israel vaunts virus victory

Masks come off as Israel vaunts virus victory
  • The vaccination of close to 5 million people has sent Israel’s coronavirus caseload tumbling from some 10,000 new infections per day as recently as mid-January, to around 200 cases a day

JERUSALEM: Israelis stepped into the streets without masks on Sunday for the first time in a year, a key milestone as the country vaccinates its way out of a coronavirus nightmare.
“It’s very strange but it’s very nice,” said Eliana Gamulka, 26, after getting off a bus near the busy Jerusalem shopping boulevard of Jaffa Street and removing her face covering.
“You can’t pretend that you don’t know anyone any more,” she smiled.
With over half the population fully vaccinated in one of the world’s fastest anti-COVID 19 inoculation campaigns, the Health Ministry announced on Thursday that masks would no longer be required in public outdoor spaces.
For Gamulka, a project manager, the good news came at the perfect time: Just two weeks before her wedding.
It will be “very nice to celebrate with everyone, now without masks,” she said. “The pictures will be great! I’m very relieved. We can start living again.”
The vaccination of close to 5 million people has sent Israel’s coronavirus caseload tumbling from some 10,000 new infections per day as recently as mid-January, to around 200 cases a day.
That has allowed the reopening of schools, bars, restaurants and other indoor gatherings — although masks are still required in indoor public spaces.

HIGHLIGHTS

• With over half the population fully vaccinated in one of the world’s fastest anti-COVID 19 inoculation campaigns, the Health Ministry announced on Thursday that masks would no longer be required in public outdoor spaces.

• The vaccination of close to 5 million people has sent Israel’s coronavirus caseload tumbling from some 10,000 new infections per day as recently as mid-January, to around 200 cases a day. That has allowed the reopening of schools, bars, restaurants and other indoor gatherings.

Israel just months ago had the world’s highest infection rate, a coronavirus outbreak that left 6,300 people dead among 836,000 cases.
But the country sent its coronavirus caseload tumbling after striking a deal for a vast stock of Pfizer/BioNTech jabs.
In exchange, it agreed to pay above market price and share data it gathers on the recipients, using one of the world’s most sophisticated medical data systems.
Since December, some 53 percent of Israel’s 9.3 million people have received both doses of the jab, including around four-fifths of the population aged over 20.
As recently as January it was registering 10,000 cases per day.
But as the effects of mass vaccination kicked in, by March it was able to implement a gradual reopening.
“There’s no better advertisement for Pfizer,” said Shalom Yatzkan, a computer programmer who had been in quarantine after catching the virus.
“I was sick for three days, I had neck pains and felt weak,” he said as he walked through central Jerusalem. “I just hope the new variants don’t catch up with us.”
Another Sunday landmark in Israel’s exit from coronavirus restrictions was the full resumption of the country’s educational system, without restrictions on the numbers of pupils in classrooms.


Berbers: North Africa’s ‘free people’ struggle for rights

Berbers: North Africa’s ‘free people’ struggle for rights
The Berbers are descendants of pre-Arab North Africans, whose historic homelands stretched from the Canary Isles and Morocco to the deserts of western Egypt. (AFP)
Updated 25 min 37 sec ago

Berbers: North Africa’s ‘free people’ struggle for rights

Berbers: North Africa’s ‘free people’ struggle for rights
  • The Berbers comprise about 10 million people in Algeria, making up roughly a quarter of the country’s population of 40 million. The majority live in Kabylie, a restive, mountainous region to the east of the capital Algiers

ALGIERS: Thousands rioted in Algeria’s northern Kabylie region 20 years ago this week — a symbolic chapter in the long fight for Berber rights.
The indigenous group is also in the vanguard of the Hirak anti-government protests that have rocked the country since 2019.
The Berbers are descendants of pre-Arab North Africans, whose historic homelands stretched from the Canary Isles and Morocco to the deserts of western Egypt.
They refer to themselves as the Amazigh, meaning “free people,” and have long fought for recognition for their ancient culture and language in modern states across the region.
Here is an overview of the Berbers’ varying fortunes in the Maghreb and Libya.
The Berbers comprise about 10 million people in Algeria, making up roughly a quarter of the country’s population of 40 million.
The majority live in Kabylie, a restive, mountainous region to the east of the capital Algiers.
On April 18, 2001, a teenager held at a gendarmerie post near Tizi Ouzou, the capital of Kabylie, was hit by a hail of bullets. He died two days later.
Massinissa Guermah’s death sparked riots, as Kabylie was preparing to celebrate the 21st anniversary of its fight for recognition of its Berber identity.
An estimated 126 people died in the two months of unrest, many of them youths shot in clashes with riot police.
Thousands of others were wounded in the crackdown.
In 2002, Berber was finally recognized as a national — but not an official — language, allowing it to be taught as a second language in some Berber areas.
Its recognition as an official language only came with constitutional reforms in 2016.
Berber New Year was celebrated as an official feast day for the first time on Jan. 12, 2018.
Morocco is home to the world’s largest Berber community.
According to a 2014 census, more than a quarter (26.7 percent) of Morocco’s population of 35 million use one of the country’s three main Berber dialects.
Their language was only given official status alongside Arabic in a new constitution in 2011.
Their Tifinagh alphabet now appears on many public buildings next to Arabic and French.
Since 2010, the Tamazight TV channel has been dedicated to promoting Berber culture.
In Libya, the Berbers were persecuted under former ruler Muammar Qaddafi.
However, they make up around 10 percent of the population, living mainly in the mountains west of Tripoli or in the vast southern desert regions.
In Tunisia, official statistics based on ethnicity are prohibited.
While their traditional heartland is in the south, an exodus from the countryside means Berbers today are mainly found in the capital Tunis.


How Middle East public attitudes have evolved, 1 year into COVID-19 pandemic

Health workers check worshippers entering the Grand Mosque in Makkah on April 18, 2021 as part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (SPA)
Health workers check worshippers entering the Grand Mosque in Makkah on April 18, 2021 as part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (SPA)
Updated 19 April 2021

How Middle East public attitudes have evolved, 1 year into COVID-19 pandemic

Health workers check worshippers entering the Grand Mosque in Makkah on April 18, 2021 as part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (SPA)
  • Data from polling agency YouGov suggests pandemic will have long-lasting impact on attitudes towards public health
  • Fear of catching COVID-19 has fallen among Saudi and UAE respondents, while willingness to accept vaccines has grown

DUBAI: On March 11, 2020, just a matter of months after it first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, outbreaks of the novel coronavirus were reported from multiple continents — marking the start of an unprecedented health emergency and an abrupt change in daily habits.

After the World Health Organization (WHO) decision to raise its alert from a scattering of localized epidemics to a full-blown pandemic, governments in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) area were quick to respond.

Mandatory nationwide closures were put in place, schools and workplaces emptied, front-line workers mobilized and households ordered to stay home. Few could remember a time of such disruption or ever seeing their streets so empty.

Data collected by British polling agency YouGov found that in April 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, some 75 percent of respondents across Saudi Arabia and the UAE felt “somewhat” or “very scared” of contracting the virus. This fear has generally fallen as the pandemic has worn on.

To curb the spread of COVID-19, governments placed much of the onus on the general public to abide by new personal hygiene and social distancing guidelines.

In the same YouGov poll, 78 percent of Saudi and UAE respondents said they had improved their personal hygiene (frequently washing their hands and using hand sanitizer), while 80 percent said they had avoided public places and 70 percent said they had started wearing face masks in public.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through contact with infected individuals when airborne particles are expelled through coughing and sneezing. It can also be spread by touching contaminated surfaces and transferring particles to the eyes, nose and mouth.

A Saudi police officer inspects a motorist's permit to travel during the lockdown in the Kingdom in April 2020 to fight the spread of COVID-19. (SPA file photo)

The combination of lockdown measures and ubiquitous public health messages has had a profound effect on people’s daily lives, running the gamut from how they work and study to how they travel and socialize.

It has also highlighted the significant role that widespread community uptake of hygiene and social distancing rules can play in successfully containing outbreaks.

During the first six months of the pandemic, YouGov data showed rates of mask wearing were high in the GCC. Some 80 percent of UAE respondents and 69 percent of Saudi respondents said they were consistently wearing face masks during this period.

Throughout the pandemic, at-risk groups, including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, have been urged to be extra vigilant. In August 2020, 80 percent of Saudi respondents over the age of 45 reported having avoided public places, whereas just 58 percent of 18-24-year-old Saudis said they took the same precautions.

In the same month in the UAE, 81 percent of people aged over 45 reported wearing a face mask in public, while just 66 percent of 18-24 year olds said they were complying with the mandatory mask rule.

Although men and women are equally susceptible to catching coronavirus, medical data suggests men are more likely to suffer from severe symptoms and ultimately die from the disease.

In August 2020, four out of every five Saudi respondents over the age of 45 reported having avoided public places. (Reuters file photo)

And yet, despite WHO advice to the contrary, YouGov data found that male Saudi and UAE residents were less likely to improve their personal hygiene, less likely to wear face masks, less likely to avoid crowded places and less likely to avoid touching potentially contaminated surfaces.

Since the pandemic began, nearly 142 million people have been infected worldwide and more than 3 million have died. The UAE has seen about 500,000 COVID-19 cases, while Saudi Arabia’s total is approaching the 405,000 mark.

Compared with many European states, where governments were slower to react to the pandemic, the outbreak in the GCC has been relatively mild, with a much lower death rate. But even here, as vaccines are rolled out and restrictions are gradually eased, things feel a long way from normal.


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“What’s happening to us may seem to so many people to be alien and unnatural, but plagues are not new to our species — they’re just new to us,” writes social epidemiologist Dr. Nicholas Christakis in his book “Apollo’s arrow: The profound and enduring impact of coronavirus on the way we live.”

And just like the great epidemics of the past, writes Christakis, the COVID-19 pandemic will eventually pass, bringing with it a brighter period in which people seek out long-denied social interactions.

The Yale professor even predicts a second “roaring 20s” similar to the decade of prosperity and cultural resurgence that followed the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918.

But in order for this to happen, people must be safe — and feel safe. Annual vaccinations, improved treatments and vaccine passports are all possible tools to get societies and economies back on track.

Until then, the behavior of those least at risk will continue to impact those most at risk. Therefore, getting “back to normal” will depend not only on medical science, but on the actions of the community as a whole.

Without a widespread uptake of vaccines and containment measures, the virus will enjoy a stronger foothold and a greater chance of mutating, allowing it to become more transmissible and its symptoms more severe.

“When a virus is widely circulating in a population and causing many infections, the likelihood of the virus mutating increases,” according to the WHO’s “Vaccine Explained” series. “The more opportunities a virus has to spread, the more it replicates — and the more opportunities it has to undergo changes.”

INNUMBERS

83% Saudi respondents who believe the pandemic situation is improving.

14% UAE respondents who believe the pandemic situation is getting worse.

70% Saudi and UAE respondents who say they will continue avoiding crowded places.

Source: YouGov COVID-19 Public Monitor, March 2021

A major factor in uptake is the trustworthiness of the vaccines on offer.

In early December last year, the UAE became one of the first countries to approve the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use. YouGov’s polling data at the end of that month found that just 56 percent of UAE respondents felt comfortable taking the vaccine or had already done so. In Saudi Arabia, that figure was only 42 percent.

An Emirati man gets vaccinated against COVID-19 at al-Barsha Health Centre in Dubai on December 24, 2020. (AFP file photo)

Since the national vaccination program was launched in Saudi Arabia, more than 2 million doses have been administered at 500 centers across the Kingdom. In the UAE, which has one of the highest vaccination rates per head of the population in the world, more than 10 million have been administered.

Since the December 2020 poll, confidence in the safety and efficacy of the new crop of COVID-19 vaccines has grown. Data from the YouGov COVID-19 Public Monitor in March 2021 showed an increase in willingness to take the vaccine by 20 percent of respondents in Saudi Arabia and 26 percent in the UAE.

Now the vast majority of respondents in the UAE (82 percent) and in Saudi Arabia (62 percent) say that they have either received a vaccine, or are willing to take one.

In other findings, 83 percent of Saudi respondents believe the pandemic situation is improving; only 14 percent UAE respondents believe the pandemic situation is getting worse, while but 70 percent of Saudi and UAE respondents intend to continue avoiding crowded places.

None of this is surprising given that scientists still have a lot to learn about COVID-19, its mutations, spread patterns, long-term symptoms and its ability to outmaneuver the vaccines and treatments doctors throw at it.

Mask wearing, hand sanitizing and social distancing might therefore be requisite behaviors for some time yet to come.

 


Deputy commander of Iran’s Quds Force dies from ‘heart condition’

Deputy commander of Iran’s Quds Force dies from ‘heart condition’
Updated 18 April 2021

Deputy commander of Iran’s Quds Force dies from ‘heart condition’

Deputy commander of Iran’s Quds Force dies from ‘heart condition’

RIYADH: The deputy commander of Iran’s military wing that oversees its foreign proxy militias has died from a “heart condition.”
Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hejazi’s death was announced by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iranian media reported. No further details were given about his death.
He was a senior figure in the Quds Force, the overseas arm of the IRGC, whose overall commander Qassem Soleimani was killed by a US airstrike in January 2020.
The statement said Hejazi, who was 65, was involved in operations in Lebanon where Iran supplies and funds Hezbollah.
The Quds force is considered a terrorist organization by the US, Europe and many countries in the Middle East.