Damming The Nile


Damming The Nile

The world's longest river flows from Lake Tana in Ethiopia, through Sudan and into Egypt and is vital to all three countries. But who controls the water? Alastair Leithead reports.


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At ten o'clock, Fiona Bruce will

have the full round-up of the news,

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but first, we look at the world's

longest river in this special

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programme Damming the Nile.

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The River Nile is the

world's longest river.

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It's where the world's first war

over water could be fought.

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The first of its two great

tributaries, the White Nile,

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flows from Lake Victoria,

but our journey begins in Ethiopia,

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following the Blue Nile

from Lake Tana as it sweeps

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through Africa's Grand Canyon

to where a dam is being built close

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to the Sudan border.

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Lake Tana, the source of the river,

is a place of myth and legend.

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It's the biggest lake in Ethiopia

and many of its 37 islands

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have their own monasteries.

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It's a very sacred place

for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.

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This monastery dates back

to the 14th century.

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Some of these paintings

are more than 400 years old.

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The Nile appears in

the Old Testament and legend has it

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that the Ark of the Covenant

was briefly brought here.

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But all is not calm on these waters.

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The struggle for control of this

great river is dividing the three

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countries that shade it.

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-- share it.

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The Nile is the bringer of life,

from when it launches itself

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downstream it has the power

to bring peace or bring war.

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This is where the Blue Nile

begins its long journey.

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From here up in the Ethiopian

Highlands it will cut

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through caverns and canyons,

across plains through Sudan

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and Egypt and into a delta

of the Mediterranean Sea.

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Around 85% of that water comes

from here and that is why a vast

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new dam being built in Ethiopia

is dividing nations.

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This is the Grand Ethiopian

Renaissance Dam and it is driving

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Ethiopia's ambitious plans

for Industrial Revolution,

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to put its growing population

to work to power the region

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and to tame the river,

but it's also at the heart of a row

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that has sucked in Sudan and Egypt

and threatens peace

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in this part of Africa.

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When it's finished, this will be

the largest hydroelectric power

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station in Africa and one

of the biggest dams

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on the continent.

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It will not only power this country

but the surroundings

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countries as well.

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Ethiopia didn't even ask

the countries down the stream before

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it started building.

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That is the scale of this

country's ambition.

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After just five years of work,

it's almost two thirds complete.

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This project is a project

that is being built by Ethiopians

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and that will benefit other African

brothers, sisters

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and other countries.

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and other countries.

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and other countries.

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The project manager says

it is costing at least

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$4.5 billion and that is

probably an underestimate.

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He insists that downstream countries

shouldn't worry as it is not

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consuming any water.

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This is a hydroelectric project.

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It is a water-consuming scheme

project that is only dedicated

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to generate electricity.

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This shows how the government

of Ethiopia, how the people

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of the nations, are committed

themselves to eradicate our

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common enemy, poverty.

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The construction

works are impressive.

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This second dam sweeps

across a 5km valley,

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joining two mountains to create

the edge of a vast reservoir.

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All this and a lot

more will be flooded.

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Once finished and filled,

it will cover more than 1,800 square

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kilometres, larger than the size

of Greater London.

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It will flood the Blue Nile

for nearly 250km upstream.

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If it is filled too fast,

it will reduce the amount of water

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that flows to Sudan and Egypt.

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Thousands of people have already

been moved to make way for the lake.

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The power lines are ready

and waiting for the electricity

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the dam will provide.

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70% of Ethiopia -

that's 70 million people -

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don't have electricity.

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It is holding back the country's

grand plans for development

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and it is why people support

a project they are paying for.

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TRANSLATION:

If we had electricity,

we would be able to get

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what the village needs.

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For instance, the villagers

here make a living by farming.

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If we had electricity, we would be

able to create jobs on our own,

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including metal and woodwork.

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As well as that, we would also

be able to own TVs,

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a fridge and so many other things.

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Modernisation is already changing

life in the capital, Addis Ababa.

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This is East Africa's

first metro system.

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The amount of construction

going on speaks volumes.

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Ethiopia wants to pull

as people out of poverty,

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to create jobs and get

over its historic image

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of drought and famine.

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It's Africa's fastest-growing

economy right now,

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but with a population set

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to double in 30 years,

it needs to grow even faster just

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faster just to keep up,

hence the need for cheap

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renewable energy.

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But the cost of government

ambition is human rights.

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Freedom of speech and democracy.

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Protests across the country

are being crushed.

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To the government,

development is everything.

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It is one of the most important

flagship projects for Ethiopia.

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It is a project that

will transform the country,

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it's very important.

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There is money to spend

and the minister says that people

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will pay for the dam

through a lottery,

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contributions and taxes.

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He insists that despite its fears,

Egypt will get more

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rather than less water.

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It's not about control

of the flow, it's really

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about providing opportunity for us

to do the development.

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It has a lot of benefit

for the downstream countries.

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Construction on the dam

is going on around the clock,

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such is the urgency to get this

build and generate power,

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but because Ethiopia didn't consult

with Egypt or Sudan before starting

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starting construction work

during the Arab Spring, talks

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with countries keep collapsing.

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A new political order is emerging

and Egypt doesn't like it.

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I've spoken to senior people

in Ethiopia who have said

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that they are afraid of a war

with Egypt over water.

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That they might bomb it down.

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That's the level of anger.

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What do you think about that?

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I don't think so.

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These kind of extreme

ideas are not welcome.

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This will not happen

in this region, I am sure.

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There is no record in history of war

erupting because of water.

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The water belongs to all of us.

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We have to develop it

in responsible ways,

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not thinking about war.

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But whatever he says,

the Blue Nile can now be controlled

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by Ethiopia and that is a big

concern for Egypt when so much

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of the water that reaches

Cairo comes from here.

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Sudan, however its next top,

likes the look of the cheap

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electricity heading its way.

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The waters of the Nile

bring life to Sudan,

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One of the world's biggest

irrigation schemes was created

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here more than a century ago to grow

cotton for Britain's

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Britain's Industrial Revolution,

but now it is the gulf states

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who need what Sudan can grow.

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The Blue Nile heads north

through these vast irrigated lands

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to join the White Nile before

meandering through a desert

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steeped in ancient history.

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We are following it to ask

if a row over who controls

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its flow could lead to war.

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It's here in Khartoum that the Blue

Nile and the White Nile meet

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and merge and then head

north to Egypt.

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The river has travelled

about a third of its way

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from its source to the sea

and is growing and strengthening

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in size.

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So what does Sudan, this vast

country now emerging

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from years of US sanctions,

think about Ethiopia

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building this dam upstream?

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Well, it thinks it's a great idea.

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Land is not in short supply

and with the power of the sun

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and the waters of the Nile,

Sudan's agricultural

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potential is huge.

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This is alfalfa, top-quality cattle

feed, and this farm can cut five

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-- nine harvests a year primarily

for callous but also

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for export

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to the Middle East.

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Sudan has the right to take billions

of gallons of water every year

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through old treaties with Egypt,

but claims it hasn't been

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using its full allocation.

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The suggestion it now might

is a source of tension

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with its northern neighbour.

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This farm is owned by a massive

private company that is everything

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from agriculture to mining,

from cars to health care.

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Its owner is Sudan's richest man,

who designed his own golf course.

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For Sudan, it is wonderful.

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It is the best thing that has

happened for a long time and I think

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the combination of energy

and regular water levels

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is a great blessing.

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is a great blessing.

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Cheap electricity can be used

for a lot more than just keeping

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your cows properly air-conditioned.

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It can bring faster development

to Sudan, which is just emerging

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to take advantage

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from decades of crippling

US sanctions and wants

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to take advantage

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of the opportunities.

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What do you think about

the row between Ethiopia

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and Egypt about this dam?

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The Nile is the lifeline of Egypt

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so for them, I wouldn't

say they're paranoid,

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but they are very concerned

about anything to do

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with that water.

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And the Nile is a lifeline

to Sudan as well.

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Welcome to the first-ever

festival of music and

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culture in this village.

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This village is about half a day's

drive north of Khartoum.

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It was abandoned 20 years ago,

the mud houses left without roofs

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as the villagers moved away

from the river banks to avoid

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catastrophic flooding.

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This woman remembers to huge floods

from when she was a child.

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Her father was the mayor.

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This is their house.

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TRANSLATION:

Is an image from my

life I will never forget. When the

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1976 flood hit, it was hardest, some

people use boards. It has lasted

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three weeks.

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people use boards. It has lasted

three weeks.

The whole village left,

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but now a dam upstream regulate the

flow of water so doesn't flow as

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high, meaning they can hold

festivals here and people can move

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back to this village, especially if

it is cheap electricity on the way.

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It's a time of change in Khartoum.

With the lifting of sanctions, there

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is a strong cafe culture where

issues of the day I discussed -- are

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discussed. Most people here are in

favour of the dam.

On experience

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shows that it is a blessing to

downstream countries especially if

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the intention is power generation.

Do you think there is politics

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between the changing fortunes of the

three countries?

Water in general is

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becoming politicised not only in

this region but elsewhere, but I

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think there will always be a

political case involving the three

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countries, I think it will work out.

He's diplomatic, but this is far

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from resolved. Talks between the

three countries have collapsed and

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tensions across the whole region are

growing as a result of it. The

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rivalries go back to the time of the

pyramids. The Sudanese pediments. --

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pyramids. This is more than 2000

years old. The empire ruled Egypt

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from here. This was their capital.

Powers rise and fall but all are

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linked by one great river.

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This is Egypt, the next stop on our

trip and what a way to see it. We

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are flying in a hot air balloon over

Luxor. The sun is just coming up,

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it's a stunning way to see this

country. The reason we're here is to

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understand and get an explanation of

why it is Egypt is so opposed to

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this dam that Ethiopia is building

way up the Nile. Even though Egypt

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built the dam for its own

development, it is angry with

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Ethiopia's plan. From Luxor, we will

follow the river to Cairo and onto

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the Delta, the heart of the

country's agriculture where water is

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everything. The Pharaohs used to

worship the river as a god. Egypt,

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they said, was the gift of the Nile.

Civilisations flourished here on the

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banks of the river. These temples

represent thousands of years of

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wealth and power. The -- they are

proud of the culture.

The ancient

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Egyptians considered the Nile as

lifeblood. It was life itself. Why?

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Because they use the Nile for

everything. The Nile was alive and

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still is alive for Egyptian people

in Egypt.

And decades ago, Egypt

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decided the best way to protect its

interests was to build a dam. Work

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on this dam began in 1960 and took

ten years. It created the giant lake

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Nasser, nearly three times bigger

than the new Ethiopian reservoir

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will be. It regulated the flooding

of the Nile, generated power and a

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agricultural lands to be indicated.

Tens of tens of thousands of people

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were forced from their homes and an

ancient Egyptian temple had to be

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moved brick by brick but it was a

symbol of great pride, a national

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project, rejecting power for

revolutionary post-colonial Egypt.

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It has been good for this man, who

at 60 has been a fisherman on the

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Nile for 40 years. Just like his

father and grandfather before him.

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TRANSLATION:

Our life and livelihood

depends on the Nile. We as a family

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lived by the river. We fished, we

grow crops on the islands in the

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Nile. Our cattle are fed from the

Nile. All our food is from the Nile.

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He has heard about the dam in the

Egyptian media. Ethiopia wants to

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control the Nile and its floor will

be affected, but he's sceptical --

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its flow.

The water would be affected, but

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only God knows what could happen if

the dam the river there will be wars

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and fighting.

And there are even

bigger concerns downstream in

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chaotic Cairo. Egypt relies on the

Nile for almost all its water but

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the population is growing fast. The

United Nations is warning there will

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be water shortages by 2025 because

of wastage and pollution. But the

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Government argues it is already

recycling water, using it

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efficiently and importing wheat

rather than using water to grow it.

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Egypt's water Minister says one big

threat is climate change.

It is

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unilateral action in upstream

countries, it will have severe

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impacts downstream and this is a

coordinated one.

How angry are you?

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I am extremely angry because we are

responsible for our nation which is

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100 million. One of the key things I

would mention to you, if the water

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coming to Egypt is used by 2%, what

does this mean? We lose about

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200,000 acres of land. One acre at

least. If one acre makes one family

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survive, the average family in Egypt

is five persons, so it means 1

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million will be jobless. He says

that means more migrants

heading to

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Europe and more people to be

recruited by terror groups.

Europe

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and Egypt are suffering from what is

happening in Syria and Libya and

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other countries so what if Egypt is

added to these countries? What will

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happen? It is an international

security issue.

Experts say Egypt

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has the right to be angry. A dam was

being discussed but Ethiopia started

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building without telling Egypt

judging the Arab spring. The impact

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on stream has not been properly

assessed and although the

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Renaissance Dam would extract water,

filling it to quickly will reduce

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the flow downstream and it is a

trust issue. Ethiopia can now

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control the river.

It is very much a

game changer. Now if Ethiopia is

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combining the physical power of

being upstream country that can in

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one way or another control the Nile

flow and the economic power of being

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able to construct the dam depending

on its own domestic resources, so

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yeah, it's an indication, it is a

manifestation that the power balance

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is changing in the region, economic

way, politically and strategically

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as well. -- economic Delhi.

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The last stretch of the Nile is

where its famous Cotton is grown

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alongside crops like rice, a

notoriously thirsty crop. Irrigating

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fields by flooding them is one

reason why so much water is wasted.

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The Delta is silting as the dam

stops being replenished. The reason

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the Nile flood plains were so

productive to begin with. It is now

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polluted and fish are dying and

people are getting poorer. Saltwater

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is moving gradually upstream. It is

sad to see how this great river ends

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up. This is it, this is where the

River Nile reaches the end of its

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long journey. This behind me is the

Mediterranean Sea. You can see the

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waves coming in, this is now

saltwater. Whatever Egypt says it

0:21:590:22:04

does, Ethiopia is building this dam.

It's not an idea or a plan, it's a

0:22:040:22:09

thing. You can already control the

flow of the River Nile. Egypt has

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was been strong enough to dominate

the countries upstream but that is

0:22:120:22:16

changing. Talk of war is a foolish

thing to do to solve political

0:22:160:22:24

prices and every one we have spoken

to, nobody thinks that is going to

0:22:240:22:28

happen, but this is a really serious

problem and needs to be sorted out

0:22:280:22:31

quickly. The Nile is the place were

the world's first war over what can

0:22:310:22:38

be avoided. This could even become a

model of how countries can learn to

0:22:380:22:44

share great rivers. But for now,

it's up to Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt

0:22:440:22:49

to navigate tensions on the world's

longest river.

0:22:490:22:58

The world's longest river flows from Lake Tana in Ethiopia, through Sudan and into Egypt and is vital to all three countries. But who controls the water? Alastair Leithead reports.


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