US supports tripartite talks to resolve Nile negotiations

Ethiopia began constructing the Grand Renaissance Dam, above, on the Blue Nile in 2012. Above, the dame during its diversion ceremony on May 28, 2013. (AFP)
Updated 07 October 2019

US supports tripartite talks to resolve Nile negotiations

  • Egypt urges mediation in ‘deadlocked’ Nile dam talks

CAIRO: Cairo said negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam are deadlocked after meetings between ministers from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia ended on Saturday.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry called for a new mediator in the negotiations. The US announced its support for the tripartite talks to reach an agreement on filling and operating the dam.

“All Nile Valley countries have a right to economic development and prosperity,” the US said, urging “all sides to put forth good faith efforts to reach an agreement that preserves those rights, while simultaneously respecting each other’s Nile water equities.” Ethiopia has rejected Egyptian proposals for greater equity of Nile water.

Nader Nour El-Din, an Egyptian water expert and professor of water resources at Cairo University, said the wording of the US statement was carefully crafted so as to appeal to all parties. 

He added that it never clearly mentions respecting international water-distribution agreements, but rather “respecting each other’s Nile water equities.”

He said Nile water is a matter of national security, and President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi will never allow any harm to Egypt’s water rights.

Nour El-Din added that Ethiopia wants to impose absolute sovereignty in administrating Blue Nile waters by constructing the biggest dam in Africa.

HIGHLIGHT

• The US announced its support for the tripartite talks to reach an agreement on filling and operating the dam

Ahmed El-Shennawy, a former UN dam expert, said Egypt might choose to internationalize the issue, which might deprive Ethiopia of international funding or operation and supply contracts with European countries. 

He said the dam was constructed on land that is not fit for such a huge structure. He warned that the dam may collapse at any time, which might cause parts of Egypt and Sudan to be submerged.

Dr. Deyaa El-Qousy, former adviser to Egypt’s irrigation minister, said declaring the talks a failure signifies the start of a new phase, from seeking mediation to international arbitration. 

He added that Egypt’s only options are negotiations and internationalization of the issue, and that military solutions are not an option.

El-Qousy said a mediator might not necessarily be a country; it could be an international organization such as the World Bank. 

He added that the African Union could play a role in this “thorny” issue, and that Egypt and its Arab and African allies could exercise huge pressure.

Khartoum hosted the Egyptian and Ethiopian irrigation ministers, as well as scientific committees from both countries, to study Egyptian and Sudanese proposals, but Ethiopia rejected them. Egypt rejects any decrease in its quota of Nile water as a result of the dam’s construction.


Locust invasion in Yemen stokes food insecurity fears

A Yemeni tries to catch locusts on the rooftop of his house as they swarm several parts of the country bringing in devastations and destruction of major seasonal crops. (AFP)
Updated 13 July 2020

Locust invasion in Yemen stokes food insecurity fears

  • Billions of locusts invaded farms, cities and villages, devouring seasonal crops

AL-MUKALLA: Locust swarms have swept over farms in central, southern and eastern parts of Yemen, ravaging crops and stoking fears of food insecurity.

Residents and farmers in the provinces of Marib, Hadramout, Mahra and Abyan said that billions of locusts had invaded farms, cities and villages, devouring important seasonal crops such as dates and causing heavy losses.
“This is like a storm that razes anything it encounters,” Hussein Ben Al-Sheikh Abu Baker, an agricultural official from Hadramout’s Sah district, told Arab News on Sunday.
Images and videos posted on social media showed layers of creeping locusts laying waste to lemon farms in Marb, dates and alfalfa farms in Hadramout and flying swarms plunging cities into darkness. “The locusts have eaten all kinds of green trees, including the sesban tree. The losses are huge,” Abu Baker added.
Heavy rains and flash floods have hit several Yemeni provinces over the last couple of months, creating fruitful conditions for locusts to reproduce. Farmers complained that locusts had wiped out entire seasonal crops that are grown after rains.
Abu Baker said that he visited several affected farms in Hadramout, where farmers told him that if the government would not compensate them for the damage that it should at least get ready for a second potential locust wave that might occur in 10 days.
“The current swarms laid eggs that are expected to hatch in 10 days. We are bracing for the second wave of the locusts.”  
Last year, the UN said that the war in Yemen had disrupted vital monitoring and control efforts and several waves of locusts to hit neighboring countries had originated from Yemen.

This is like a storm that razes anything it encounters.

Hussein Ben Al-Sheikh Abu Baker, a Yemeni agricultural official

Yemeni government officials, responsible for battling the spread of locusts, have complained that fighting and a lack of funding have obstructed vital operations for combating the insects.
Ashor Al-Zubairi, the director of the Locust Control Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture in Hadramout’s Seiyun city, said that the ministry was carrying out a combat operation funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization in Hadramout and Mahra, but complained that the operation might fall short of its target due to a lack of funding and equipment.
“The spraying campaign will end in a week which is not enough to cover the entire plagued areas,” Al-Zubairi told Arab News. “We suggested increasing the number of spraying equipment or extending the campaign.”
He said that a large number of villagers had lost their source of income after the locusts ate crops and sheep food, predicting that the outbreak would likely last for at least two weeks if urgent control operations were not intensified and fighting continued. “Combating teams could not cross into some areas in Marib due to fighting.”
The widespread locust invasion comes as the World Food Programme (WFP) on July 10 sent an appeal for urgent funds for its programs in Yemen, warning that people would face starvation otherwise.
“There are 10 million people who are facing (an) acute food shortage, and we are ringing the alarm bell for these people, because their situation is deteriorating because of escalation and because of the lockdowns, the constraints and the social-economic impact of the coronavirus,” WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva.