Egypt cuts water use as Ethiopia dams for power
Sept 12 2010
Reporting from Mansoura, Egypt, and Blue Nile — On the sloping western shores of Lake Tana in central Ethiopia, where villagers gape at new tractors as if they were Ferraris and power lines pass over lean-tos lighted by candles, a poor nation's hopes hum inside a new hydroelectric plant.
Lured by the plant's promise of powering villages and irrigating 350,000 acres of farmland, intrepid investors are venturing across misty hills and navigating sprawling savannas. The World Bank has lent the country $45 million to "unleash" the region's growth potential, and Ethiopian leaders have promised that development along the tributaries feeding the Blue Nile will raise crops for the hungry and bring jobs to a rustic swath of Africa.
But not all stories along the Nile are hopeful ones.
Follow the great river north as it winds thousands of miles through highlands and deserts and funnels into the canals of Egypt's Nile Delta. Since the days of the pharaohs, the land's fate has been twinned with the Nile, and when other visions and schemes failed, the people of the delta believed that the river, which carried Moses through the reeds and Cleopatra on her lavish exploits, belonged to them.
It is in the delta, on some of the most fertile land in the world, that rice farmers have been ordered to plant fewer acres to conserve water as Ethiopia and other nations threaten to siphon away millions of gallons before the river reaches Egypt.
"We're victims of something much larger than ourselves," said Khaled Abubakr, a rice farmer whose income may drop by nearly half this year because of the new limits. "The government sends delegations to tell us how precious every drop of Nile water is to Egypt."