File photo for the view of Egypt's Nile River, Cairo (file photo: AFP)
Rainfall over the Nile River’s headwaters is expected to continue until the end of September, Egyptian Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Ati said on Sunday following a meeting of the Permanent Committee for Regulating the Nile’s Revenue.
Egypt is recording an increase in the Nile’s output for the second month in a row, with the water level rising above the riverbanks in some areas of Greater Cairo last week.
The Nile’s annual flooding — which takes place in August, September, and October — is caused by heavy rains in the Ethiopian highlands.
Some 85 percent of the river waters in Egypt flow from the Ethiopian highlands through the Blue Nile — one of the Nile’s two main tributaries along with the While Nile.
During Sunday’s meeting, the Egyptian irrigation minister assured that the water needs of the current agricultural season have been met nationwide and ordered the reduction of the water level in all waterways.
He also reviewed the measures taken to address heavy and torrential rainfall, ordering all of the ministry’s departments to be on high alert and to continuously ensure the protection of all facilities from any rainfall or flooding, according to a statement.
Additionally, the minister directed the authorities concerned to ensure the readiness of all canals and drains to handle any emergency by maintaining a safe water level to confront any congestion, as well as monitor the readiness of all electrical stations and their feeding lines.
Over the past year, Egypt has built over 1,500 facilities to protect the country from heavy rainfall as well as store water for Bedouin communities that suffer from water scarcity, the ministry said in previous statements.
The North African country has also established a flood-forecasting centre to monitor rainfall and floods as well as study climate changes and their impact on Egypt.
Fluctuations in the Nile’s patterns
Neighbouring Sudan, on the other hand, is witnessing a stable water output, as per the latest update announced by the Sudanese irrigation ministry on Saturday, except for the Dinder River.
The measurement station at the Dinder River — which is a tributary of the Blue Nile that flows through Ethiopia and Sudan for 480 kilometres — recorded a whopping 14.2 metres on Saturday, 70 cm higher than the normal water level, according to the Sudanese ministry.
Last year, the Blue Nile’s level in Sudan rose in late August and September to 17.57 metres (57 feet), breaking all records since measurements began more than a century ago, leaving more than 100 people dead and damaging tens of thousands of houses.
In Egypt, the level of the Nile River also rose dramatically to the point of temporarily submerging parts of the Delta at the time.
Egypt, which is considered one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, receives around 60 bcm annually, mainly from the Nile. However, its needs stand at around 114 bcm, placing the 102-million-plus country well below the international threshold for water scarcity at 560 cubic metres per person annually.
The large gap in water resources in Egypt is overcome by importing 54 percent of its consumption and reusing 42 percent of its renewable sources, Abdel-Ati said in an earlier statement.
The revenue of the Nile is one of the outstanding points in the long-running Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam dispute between downstream countries Egypt and Sudan, from one side, and Ethiopia, on the other.
Cairo and Khartoum have been involved in decade-long talks with Addis Ababa over the massive mega project in an attempt to reach a legally binding agreement on the filing and operation of the dam.
Egypt fears an impact on its water supply and Sudan is concerned about regulating flows to its own dams. Ethiopia, however, has pinned its hopes for development and power generation on the dam and so has been intransigent in its negotiations with the two downstream countries.