Egypt signs Nile dam deal with Ethiopia after years of dispute. What changed?

Egypt has viewed the dam as a security threat that could reduce its annual water share as the dam’s 63 billion cubic meter reservoir is filled. The dam and the power plant are expected to be operational by 2017. According to Egypt’s current Foreign Minister Hisham Qandil, the old treaty water amount –set under British colonial rule and that gave Egypt the largest share of the Nile –was incrementally less able to satisfy Egypt’s needs. The country, he said, had recently entered “hydraulic poverty.”

Experts believe Egypt likely softened its position after reaching a crossroads where it had to choose between joining its riparian neighbors, or casting itself as a lone aggressor. Most of the Nile countries had signed into a 2010 Nile-based treaty with Ethiopia called the Entebbe Agreement that gave them greater Nile bargaining rights.

“Now Egypt is alone. What can they do?” says Dr. Shafiqul Islam, director of the Water Diplomacy Program at Tufts University, adding that Ethiopia has promised not to affect water flow to Egypt. “Does Egypt believe it? Perhaps not. But they do not have much option.”

Read the rest over at Christian Science Monitor.

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