The Nile, one of the longest rivers in the world, originates from Lake Victoria and stretches to the Northern part of Africa covering a distance of 6,650 km. It passes through eleven countries which form the Nile Basin. These are Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Republic of the Sudan and Egypt.
River Nile is among the most important and shared resources in Africa and a major source of renewable fresh water in the region. It supports food production, conservation of the ecosystems, sustains economic development, and enables continuous production of goods and services such as hydroelectric power.
Over 300 million people living in the Nile Basin directly on the resource for water, food and industrial use. However, growing population, mechanized farming along the Nile banks, and pollution threaten water security and compromise the quality of water. In addition, the recent adverse impacts of climate change increase pressure on the Nile water leading to regional and interstate conflicts.
Over the years, downstream countries namely Egypt and Sudan have been intensively using and relying on the Nile’s water for their various development projects. In an attempt to unlock development potential, upstream countries have begun to utilize the resource, therefore, seeking more allocation and control of the shared Nile waters to enable them to meet their growing industrial and domestic needs. This has now become one of the main forces that aggravate the interstate conflict in the basin.
According to World Politics Review, downstream water users receive less or no rainfall thus 97% of their water needs are met by the Nile River. Upstream development activities in East Africa countries including Ethiopia exerts pressure on the future survival and flow of river Nile increasing chances of transboundary conflict between the upstream and downstream water users.
The current infrastructural development projects in the region include the construction of major dams along the Nile river key amongst them the US$4.7 billion Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Ethiopia with a capacity of 62 to 74 billion cubic meters. The dam is expected to generate 6000 megawatts upon its completion. The dam could lead to loss of 3 billion cubic meters of the Nile water through evaporation thus reducing the flows of water into the Aswan High Dam. As a result, there is a renewed conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia.
Trans-boundary water management disputes, industrial revolution coupled with effects of climate change makes the Nile the most controversial resource with influence on the security and stability in the Nile basin. Climate change factors that include high precipitation, land degradation and persistent droughts in the region pose a serious challenge to river Nile. This will result in heightening conflict due to the emergence of transboundary water management disputes.
At the backdrop of rapidly changing climatic conditions and a growing demand for water use, UN-Mid-range population projection by 2025 is expected to increase water usage in the Nile basin due to economic growth in water use efficiency, leading to a possible scramble for resources.