ICE Case Study, Nile: Environmental Problem

The nations are barely satisfied by what they now receive and it is foreseen that their needs will increase as populations rise, industrial growth takes place, and more land is irrigated with Nile water for agricultural use in nations besides Egypt. Egypt’s cropland is already 100% irrigated, fostering an amazing reliance on the flow of the Nile. It is estimated that Ethiopia and Sudan could achieve high levels of food production if they chose to irrigate as much land as possible.

Water stress is present when nations find themselves with less than 2000 cubic meters per person of renewable water supplies. By the end of the century at least five nations in the Nile basin expect themselves to be suffering from water stress. This figure does not include the water that would be needed to feed the citizens of the Nile countries. It is unlikely that the flow of water in the Nile could be increased without the completion of the Jonglei Canal, which, given Sudan’s internal problems, seems highly unlikely in the near future. (Ohlosson, 178-194)

In addition, the environmental situation is further complicated by the problems surrounding the Aswan Dam. Even though the environmental damage to Egypt’s environment caused by the Dam has been much less than originally predicted, it is still quite significant. One major problem is that the silt from the river which for millennia fertilized Egypt’s cropland is no longer being allowed to flow down the river. This means that more chemical fertilizers are being used. It is also causing erosion along the banks of the Nile, which were previously replenished by the silt carried down the river. Much of the Nile delta is now being swept into the Mediterranean. In fact, if barriers near the Nile’s outlet continue to erode, much of low lying Egypt could find itself in the sea, as the sea slowly advances. The Nile is also bringing more salt to the fields of Egypt because of the increased evaporation which takes place in Lake Nasser. (Pearce, 32)

This evaporation also presents a severe problem. Over 2 metres of water evaporate from the surface of Lake Nasser every year. this is because or its location in the middle of the desert. For this reason many opposed the construction of a dam in that location. A similar dam in the highlands of Sudan or Ethiopia would lose much less water.
However, if the dam were located elsewhere, Egypt would lose out on the hydroelectric power the dam provides (roughly one third of Egypt’s electricity) (Pearce, 31-32).