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 The Nile Basin

The Nile – the world’s longest river – runs through 10 countries, four of which are "water scarce." The Nile Basin covers an area of around three million square kilometers, or nearly 10% of the landmass of the African continent, and is home to 160 million people. Water experts believe there is not enough water in the river to meet the various irrigation goals of the Nile basin nations. Adding to potential water stress, many large hydropower dams also being considered for the Nile. Some are already built or under construction, including the High Aswan (Egypt), Merowe (Sudan), and Tekeze and Gilgel Gibe in Ethiopia. Others, such as the Bujagali and Karuma dams (Uganda), remain in the planning stages at this time.  All of these competing projects combined with the coming impacts of  climate change could send the region’s already over–tapped water resources into crisis, leave economies weaker rather than stronger, and do little to reduce ongoing conflict over the Nile.

The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) was established as an inter–governmental organization to address the region’s brewing water conflict, reduce poverty and promote economic integration. The proposed program has the potential to reduce a number of problems in the basin. However, the NBI is expected to rely quite heavily on constructing large–scale irrigation and hydropower dams, an approach that could prove a poor choice for reducing friction in the basin if it follows a "business as usual" line. The World Commission on Dams reveals that poorly planned large dams are likely to exacerbate problems of poverty, water inequity and environmental degradation. Concerns have also been raised that the NBI is marginalizing the participation of Nile Basin civil society in project decisions; The WCD guidelines also advocate for public participation in a transparent decision–making process. IRN is monitoring the NBI and civil society’s role in the planning process, and will continue to promote the adoption of the WCD’s recommendations as a way to ensure that the best projects are chosen for meeting water and energy needs.


More information

  latest additions  
Report Reveals How Dams are Draining Lake Victoria
"Connections Between Recent Water Level Drops in Lake Victoria, Dam Operations and Drought," published in February 2006, reveals how two dams on the Nile in Uganda are draining Lake Victoria. Read a press release. Read the full report (PDF). Read IRN’s letter to the World Bank on their role in the problem. Read a June 2006 update to the report.