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Cablegate: World Bank Economist: Water Security an Issue for Sudan

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SUBJECT: World Bank Economist: Water Security an Issue for Sudan
Peace Talks

REF: A) Cairo 2195, B) 08 Cairo 1963

1. (SBU) Summary: World Bank Economist Mosllem Alamir predicted that
water resources in post-2011 Sudan could lead to conflict and
economic crisis if the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement
(CPA) do not make decisions now about allocation or cooperation on
the use of Nile waters. Increased development and agricultural
projects in Southern Sudan could rankle Egypt, which currently
claims control of the majority of the water that flows through the
Nile. Alamir believes Sudan should continue its cooperation in the
Nile Basin Initiative, and - should Southern Sudanese choose
independence in 2011 - that Juba join the organization as well. End
Summary.

----------------------------------------
Background: Nile Water is Egypt's Domain
----------------------------------------

2. (SBU) In 1929, British colonial authorities consolidated an
agreement giving Egypt primary rights over the Nile's 85 billion
cubic meters of water, permitting Egypt to veto projects by other
countries that would affect its water rights. In a subsequent
agreement with Sudan in 1959, Egypt agreed to accept 55.5 billion cm
and Sudan 18.5 billion cm, leaving the other eight countries in the
region (Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burundi, the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania) a minimal share of
Nile water. Rains in Uganda and Ethiopia contribute approximately
85 percent of the Nile's flow, but these countries have little input
on the administration of the river, and could not divert any
significant share of their contribution to the Nile without
political backlash from Egypt.

3. (SBU) In an effort to avoid conflict over Nile waters, regional
countries launched the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) in 1999. The NBI
has sought to use the derivatives from Nile development and
extraction projects to benefit the millions who depend on the river.
The NBI's mechanism of cooperative project management and
gains-sharing was also considered a way to reduce Egypt's domination
of the Nile. Sustainable development allows other countries to use
the Nile for energy production and to provide a consistent source of
other revenues. The partnership approach, has to some degree,
negate the countries' need to depend on percentage shares of the
water use. The NBI instead establishes policies for the projects
and seeks to address environmental and other threats to the river
waters.

------------------------------------------
Making the Nile a More Productive Waterway
------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) According to Alamir, upstream NBI member countries have
long disputed the 1929 and 1959 agreements, and for years have been
campaigning for a more equitable share of the water resources. He
described the NBI symposia held in July in which upstream countries
hoped to pressure Egypt into agreeing to new allocations, but
neither Egypt nor Sudan would consent to relinquish their historic
rights to the waters. Alamir said that Egypt views its position on
water-sharing from a security standpoint, as its demand for water
will outpace supply within the next 10 years due to an increase in
population. (Note: Sudan's needs for water are also expected to
grow, although planned large-scale agricultural projects along the
White Nile south of Khartoum are proceeding slowly. End note.)

5. (SBU) Given existing tensions, Alamir said that the Government of
National Unity (GNU) and the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS)
need to decide on how the water from the Nile River will be used by
both sides in various future scenarios. He pointed out that they
must look at the model of regional cooperation used by the NBI
countries, pending the result of the 2011 referendum on Southern
Sudanese independence. (Note: Most observers and Southern Sudanese
politicians assume the south will opt for secession from Sudan. End
note.) Alamir pointed out that the NBI mechanism has succeeded in
preventing international conflict over water rights by agreeing to
cooperatively generate and manage sustainable development projects
based on the resources extracted from the Nile, such as fish and
hydroelectric energy. Should the south secede in 2011, Alamir said
the two countries should agree to appropriately share the revenues
derived from extraction, power generation, agricultural and
transportation projects. Alamir advised that the ultimate aim
should be to join ranks with other upstream countries to address
more equitably Egyptian primacy over water resources.

-----------------------
Avoiding War over Water
-----------------------

KHARTOUM 00001343 002 OF 002

6. (SBU) During both bilateral north-south discussions and formal
negotiations with Egypt, water security issues should be high on the
agenda, Alamir advised. Increased competition for water resources
could exacerbate diplomatic relations with Sudan's northern
neighbor, and if Southern Sudan secedes, this would create yet
another country competing for a share of the Nile's waters.
Southern Sudan, which is severely underdeveloped, could potentially
pursue large-scale mechanized agricultural projects. In such a
case, Alamir expected that Egypt would view Southern Sudan as a
competitor for water and consider its development as a potential
threat to Egypt's quota.

7. (SBU) Comment: To date, most discussions of post-referendum
issues have focused on the contentious issues of land and petroleum
resources. Cairo is certainly aware of the possibility that
Southern Sudan could become a wild card in the NBI games, a
competitor for the water of the White Nile, or even an ally should
the Egyptians manage to convince the GOSS to complete the Jonglei
Canal, long coveted by Egypt, that would increase the flow of the
White Nile at Kosti by ten percent, probably to the detriment of the
Sudd, Africa's largest interior wetlands. It is no accident that
the first diplomatic facility to open shop in Juba as the GOSS stood
up was Egyptian.

WHITEHEAD

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