Eastern Nile at crossroads: Preservation and utilization concerns in focus
Abstract“Yabayin lij wuha temaw” is an Amharic proverb that has the theme: “thirst at the bank of a stream” or “shortages in the midst of plenty.” The proverb literally means “Nile’s child got thirsty.” A question I had once raised in one of my elementary classes was whether a person can be considered child of a river. I recall that my Amharic Grammar teacher didn’t answer the question, but instead subtly relayed it back to the class so that we could explore the core message of the proverb. Indeed, we human beings are children of the air we breathe (without which we can’t survive beyond few minutes), the water we drink (that constitute 60 to 80% of the human body and without which we can’t stay alive beyond a few days). We are also children of the soil and energy (heat, light…) that nurture our crops and that enable us live our lives as generations come and go. The words “soil to soil and ashes to ashes” signify this truth. Ancient Egyptians believed that Ptah was the Nile god and that his “head supported the sky, his feet rested upon the earth”. They also believed that the sun and the moon were the eyes of Ptah and that air came from his nostrils and “the Nile from his mouth. … Egypt’s first temple was created to Ptah by King Memes.”1 Such reverence to the source of the Nile was long forsaken by Egypt who has been (for over a century) pursuing a geopolitical strategy towards controlling the utilization of the Nile waters, rather than equitably sharing it with upstream riparians. As decades rolled on, however, development of international law towards the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization and the current concern for the protection of the Nile basin ecosystem seem to necessitate changes that require fraternal concessions towards mutual benefit and ultimate regional integration.
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