By MAGGIE MICHAEL — Associated Press
CAIRO — Angry Egyptian lawmakers accused the country’s prime minister and government on Monday of doing nothing to prevent Ethiopia from completing a dam that threatens to leave Nile-dependent Egypt with a dangerous water shortage.
Prime Minister Hesham Kandil had just finished addressing parliament about how the government planned to work diplomatically, legally and technically to negotiate with Ethiopia over the dam when the session heated up.
He called the dam’s construction an “act of defiance” and stressed that Egypt will not give “a single drop of water,” but then hurriedly left the chamber despite calls for clarification over how to handle the situation if Ethiopia rejects overtures.
“Egypt will turn to a graveyard” if the dam is completed, geologist and Egyptian lawmaker Khaled Ouda shouted to parliament. “The prime minister didn’t provide anything.”
“We have to stop the construction of this dam first before entering negotiations,” he said.
Egypt in the past has threatened to go to war over its “historic rights” to the waters of the Nile River. Last week, Egyptian political leaders caused uproar after proposing to aid rebels against the Ethiopian government or even sabotaging the dam itself. Ethiopia demanded an official explanation.
Egypt faces the prospect of its current water shortage worsening when the so-called Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is completed.
Ethiopia’s decision challenges a colonial-era agreement that had given downstream Egypt and Sudan rights to the Nile water, with Egypt taking 55.5 billion cubic meters and Sudan 18.5 billion cubic meters of 84 billion cubic meters, with 10 billion lost to evaporation. That agreement, first signed in 1929, took no account of the eight other nations along the 6,700-kilometer (4,160-mile) river and its basin, which have been agitating for a decade for a more equitable accord.
Ethiopia’s unilateral action seems to ignore the 10-nation Nile Basin Initiative, a regional partnership formed in 1999 that seeks to develop the river in a cooperative manner.
Ethiopia is leading a group of five nations threatening to sign a new cooperation agreement without Egypt and Sudan, effectively taking control from Egypt of the Nile, which serves some 238 million people.
Experts estimate that Egypt could lose as much as 20 percent of its Nile water in the three to five years needed for Ethiopia to fill a massive planned reservoir.
Abdullah Badr, who leads the ultraconservative Salafi caucus in parliament, held up a blank notebook after Kandil’s speech and said: “I have been taking notes and the page for solutions is blank.”
“Where are the studies? Where are the solutions?” He added. “There is nothing more dangerous than this. This is about water security and there are enemies outside and inside – what is the role of the government and what did it do?” he said.
Ethiopian officials have downplayed he effect the dam will have on Egypt, saying it is needed to provide much-needed power for the country’s development.