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Hydrosolidarity: water management of the Nile River

Project financed and supported by Lund University and located at the Pufendorf Institute.


Project Managers: Dan-Erik Andersson & Ronny Berndtsson

Research Description

The Nile is the source of life that plays a crucial role in the economics, politics, and cultural life of eleven countries and their almost 400 million inhabitants. The population of these countries is expected to double within 30 years. This means that an astonishingly number of three-quarter of a billion people will be dependent for their livelihood on a single river with dwindling flow. How can the water of the Nile be handled in a way that meets the water needs of all people in the region?

The Nile extends through the Arab region in the Middle East and also includes some of the poorest areas in the world (e.g., Ethiopia and Eritrea). Thus, the area is confronted by severe problems due to both climatic conditions and socioeconomic factors. The region is characterized by a fast increasing population (especially Egypt and Ethiopia), which has resulted in a sharp decline of the per capita availability of water during last the decades. The socioeconomic problems are severe in many of these countries and rely heavily on the availability of water supply for irrigation from the Nile.

The so-called Arab Spring brings hope for improvement in the region on aspects of democracy and human rights standards. But it also opens up for new negotiations on established agreements and the expected increase of level of living standard will increase the demand on water resources. In 2011 Sudan was divided into two countries and hopefully this will lead to a more peaceful situation in the two countries and in the region as a whole, but it will also create tensions that have to be met with cautious conflict handling. In 2011 Ethiopia started the debated construction of theGrand Millenium Dam (later name change to the Grand Renaissance Dam). About 30% of the funding for the dam is secured from China but the remaining funding is still unresolved. Earlier, Egypt has threatened with war if Ethiopia tries to block the Nile flow and Ethiopia has responded that no country can prevent it from using Nile water (about 85% of the Nile river flow originate in the Ethiopian highlands). Egypt has responded that it will not give up its share of Nile water. What are the possibilities to resolve the water problem and prevent extended hydropolitical conflict? According to the above, the potential forconflict over water appears to be overwhelming. The escalating water problems appear overpowering and risks for an ecoclimatic collapse with resulting famine and possible conflict valid. Even so there may be a future outcome that could encompass peaceful co-use of the Nile water resources. In this research program our aim is to focus on the Nile Basin as an example of utmost important water management.

Future sustainable use of water resources requires solidarity and mechanisms for peaceful conflict resolution. Researchers from six different faculties will focus on the water management, but also on aspects of conflict prevention and human rights. The research program aims at studying how people with different ethnic origin and religious belief are linked together in the Nile Basin and to investigate the preconditions and prospects for hydrosolidarity. One of ourresearch hypothesis is that increased hydrosolidarity among the riparians is required to manage water resources in a sustainable manner.