Green energy project threatening national & human security

Over the last months, tension has heightened despite continued negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). By constructing this hydroelectric dam, Ethiopia would be able to address its growing energy and development needs, export its surplus green energy and improve the human security of its population. As the dam has implications for the continuation of the Nile river, Egypts’ water security and by extension its food production is at risk. The dam could also improve the flow of the Nile throughout the year which can have advantages for the agricultural output in Egypt. However, concerns predominate regarding the expected reduced water inflow into Egypt. 

Al Jazeera and NASA-based earth and space scientist Dr Essam Heggy analyzed and visualized the impact of the GERD on water and food security in Egypt. As multiple scenarios are currently being negotiated between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, his team created an interactive map demonstrating the implications of the different scenarios:

“The scenarios, which are based on academic research, highlight what could happen to Egypt’s annual water reserves and agricultural areas depending on how quickly Ethiopia fills the dam (21, 10, 7, 5 or 3 years). The time it takes to fill the dam has a direct impact on how much water will make it downstream into Egypt. The shorter the time, the lower the flow.” 

As water is essential to Egypt’s survival, the dispute over this natural resources is considered a substantial threat to national security. The International Crisis Group alerted on the need to address this conflict before the dam is operational to decrease the risk of direct clashes. The likeliness of inter-state military conflict is debated. Egypt has mentioned its intention to undertake military action. Ethiopia has indicated to be ready to use force if necessary but that a military conflict is not in the interest of any. In reality, Egypt’s human and material military capacity outperforms Ethiopia’s substantially as Ethiopia’s defence budget is a third of Egypt’s. Yet, initiatives such as the Ethiopian-Sudanese Joint Military Commission have been established to protect the dam. 

Obtain an in-depth understanding of the historical water division agreements among the different countries bordering the Nile river, the GERD project and its consequences on water and food availability in Egypt in this interactive map.

Photo credit: Dan Meyers/Unsplash


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