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At ten o'clock, Fiona Bruce will
have the full round-up of the news,
but first, we look at the world's
longest river in this special
programme Damming the Nile.
The River Nile is the
world's longest river.
It's where the world's first war
over water could be fought.
The first of its two great
tributaries, the White Nile,
flows from Lake Victoria,
but our journey begins in Ethiopia,
following the Blue Nile
from Lake Tana as it sweeps
through Africa's Grand Canyon
to where a dam is being built close
to the Sudan border.
Lake Tana, the source of the river,
is a place of myth and legend.
It's the biggest lake in Ethiopia
and many of its 37 islands
have their own monasteries.
It's a very sacred place
for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.
This monastery dates back
to the 14th century.
Some of these paintings
are more than 400 years old.
The Nile appears in
the Old Testament and legend has it
that the Ark of the Covenant
was briefly brought here.
But all is not calm on these waters.
The struggle for control of this
great river is dividing the three
countries that shade it.
-- share it.
The Nile is the bringer of life,
from when it launches itself
downstream it has the power
to bring peace or bring war.
This is where the Blue Nile
begins its long journey.
From here up in the Ethiopian
Highlands it will cut
through caverns and canyons,
across plains through Sudan
and Egypt and into a delta
of the Mediterranean Sea.
Around 85% of that water comes
from here and that is why a vast
new dam being built in Ethiopia
is dividing nations.
This is the Grand Ethiopian
Renaissance Dam and it is driving
Ethiopia's ambitious plans
for Industrial Revolution,
to put its growing population
to work to power the region
and to tame the river,
but it's also at the heart of a row
that has sucked in Sudan and Egypt
and threatens peace
in this part of Africa.
When it's finished, this will be
the largest hydroelectric power
station in Africa and one
of the biggest dams
on the continent.
It will not only power this country
but the surroundings
countries as well.
Ethiopia didn't even ask
the countries down the stream before
it started building.
That is the scale of this
After just five years of work,
it's almost two thirds complete.
This project is a project
that is being built by Ethiopians
and that will benefit other African
and other countries.
and other countries.
and other countries.
The project manager says
it is costing at least
$4.5 billion and that is
probably an underestimate.
He insists that downstream countries
shouldn't worry as it is not
consuming any water.
This is a hydroelectric project.
It is a water-consuming scheme
project that is only dedicated
to generate electricity.
This shows how the government
of Ethiopia, how the people
of the nations, are committed
themselves to eradicate our
common enemy, poverty.
works are impressive.
This second dam sweeps
across a 5km valley,
joining two mountains to create
the edge of a vast reservoir.
All this and a lot
more will be flooded.
Once finished and filled,
it will cover more than 1,800 square
kilometres, larger than the size
of Greater London.
It will flood the Blue Nile
for nearly 250km upstream.
If it is filled too fast,
it will reduce the amount of water
that flows to Sudan and Egypt.
Thousands of people have already
been moved to make way for the lake.
The power lines are ready
and waiting for the electricity
the dam will provide.
70% of Ethiopia -
that's 70 million people -
don't have electricity.
It is holding back the country's
grand plans for development
and it is why people support
a project they are paying for.
If we had electricity,
we would be able to get
what the village needs.
For instance, the villagers
here make a living by farming.
If we had electricity, we would be
able to create jobs on our own,
including metal and woodwork.
As well as that, we would also
be able to own TVs,
a fridge and so many other things.
Modernisation is already changing
life in the capital, Addis Ababa.
This is East Africa's
first metro system.
The amount of construction
going on speaks volumes.
Ethiopia wants to pull
as people out of poverty,
to create jobs and get
over its historic image
of drought and famine.
It's Africa's fastest-growing
economy right now,
but with a population set
to double in 30 years,
it needs to grow even faster just
faster just to keep up,
hence the need for cheap
But the cost of government
ambition is human rights.
Freedom of speech and democracy.
Protests across the country
are being crushed.
To the government,
development is everything.
It is one of the most important
flagship projects for Ethiopia.
It is a project that
will transform the country,
it's very important.
There is money to spend
and the minister says that people
will pay for the dam
through a lottery,
contributions and taxes.
He insists that despite its fears,
Egypt will get more
rather than less water.
It's not about control
of the flow, it's really
about providing opportunity for us
to do the development.
It has a lot of benefit
for the downstream countries.
Construction on the dam
is going on around the clock,
such is the urgency to get this
build and generate power,
but because Ethiopia didn't consult
with Egypt or Sudan before starting
starting construction work
during the Arab Spring, talks
with countries keep collapsing.
A new political order is emerging
and Egypt doesn't like it.
I've spoken to senior people
in Ethiopia who have said
that they are afraid of a war
with Egypt over water.
That they might bomb it down.
That's the level of anger.
What do you think about that?
I don't think so.
These kind of extreme
ideas are not welcome.
This will not happen
in this region, I am sure.
There is no record in history of war
erupting because of water.
The water belongs to all of us.
We have to develop it
in responsible ways,
not thinking about war.
But whatever he says,
the Blue Nile can now be controlled
by Ethiopia and that is a big
concern for Egypt when so much
of the water that reaches
Cairo comes from here.
Sudan, however its next top,
likes the look of the cheap
electricity heading its way.
The waters of the Nile
bring life to Sudan,
One of the world's biggest
irrigation schemes was created
here more than a century ago to grow
cotton for Britain's
Britain's Industrial Revolution,
but now it is the gulf states
who need what Sudan can grow.
The Blue Nile heads north
through these vast irrigated lands
to join the White Nile before
meandering through a desert
steeped in ancient history.
We are following it to ask
if a row over who controls
its flow could lead to war.
It's here in Khartoum that the Blue
Nile and the White Nile meet
and merge and then head
north to Egypt.
The river has travelled
about a third of its way
from its source to the sea
and is growing and strengthening
So what does Sudan, this vast
country now emerging
from years of US sanctions,
think about Ethiopia
building this dam upstream?
Well, it thinks it's a great idea.
Land is not in short supply
and with the power of the sun
and the waters of the Nile,
potential is huge.
This is alfalfa, top-quality cattle
feed, and this farm can cut five
-- nine harvests a year primarily
for callous but also
to the Middle East.
Sudan has the right to take billions
of gallons of water every year
through old treaties with Egypt,
but claims it hasn't been
using its full allocation.
The suggestion it now might
is a source of tension
with its northern neighbour.
This farm is owned by a massive
private company that is everything
from agriculture to mining,
from cars to health care.
Its owner is Sudan's richest man,
who designed his own golf course.
For Sudan, it is wonderful.
It is the best thing that has
happened for a long time and I think
the combination of energy
and regular water levels
is a great blessing.
is a great blessing.
Cheap electricity can be used
for a lot more than just keeping
your cows properly air-conditioned.
It can bring faster development
to Sudan, which is just emerging
to take advantage
from decades of crippling
US sanctions and wants
to take advantage
of the opportunities.
What do you think about
the row between Ethiopia
and Egypt about this dam?
The Nile is the lifeline of Egypt
so for them, I wouldn't
say they're paranoid,
but they are very concerned
about anything to do
with that water.
And the Nile is a lifeline
to Sudan as well.
Welcome to the first-ever
festival of music and
culture in this village.
This village is about half a day's
drive north of Khartoum.
It was abandoned 20 years ago,
the mud houses left without roofs
as the villagers moved away
from the river banks to avoid
This woman remembers to huge floods
from when she was a child.
Her father was the mayor.
This is their house.
Is an image from my
life I will never forget. When the
1976 flood hit, it was hardest, some
people use boards. It has lasted
people use boards. It has lasted
The whole village left,
but now a dam upstream regulate the
flow of water so doesn't flow as
high, meaning they can hold
festivals here and people can move
back to this village, especially if
it is cheap electricity on the way.
It's a time of change in Khartoum.
With the lifting of sanctions, there
is a strong cafe culture where
issues of the day I discussed -- are
discussed. Most people here are in
favour of the dam.
shows that it is a blessing to
downstream countries especially if
the intention is power generation.
Do you think there is politics
between the changing fortunes of the
Water in general is
becoming politicised not only in
this region but elsewhere, but I
think there will always be a
political case involving the three
countries, I think it will work out.
He's diplomatic, but this is far
from resolved. Talks between the
three countries have collapsed and
tensions across the whole region are
growing as a result of it. The
rivalries go back to the time of the
pyramids. The Sudanese pediments. --
pyramids. This is more than 2000
years old. The empire ruled Egypt
from here. This was their capital.
Powers rise and fall but all are
linked by one great river.
This is Egypt, the next stop on our
trip and what a way to see it. We
are flying in a hot air balloon over
Luxor. The sun is just coming up,
it's a stunning way to see this
country. The reason we're here is to
understand and get an explanation of
why it is Egypt is so opposed to
this dam that Ethiopia is building
way up the Nile. Even though Egypt
built the dam for its own
development, it is angry with
Ethiopia's plan. From Luxor, we will
follow the river to Cairo and onto
the Delta, the heart of the
country's agriculture where water is
everything. The Pharaohs used to
worship the river as a god. Egypt,
they said, was the gift of the Nile.
Civilisations flourished here on the
banks of the river. These temples
represent thousands of years of
wealth and power. The -- they are
proud of the culture.
Egyptians considered the Nile as
lifeblood. It was life itself. Why?
Because they use the Nile for
everything. The Nile was alive and
still is alive for Egyptian people
And decades ago, Egypt
decided the best way to protect its
interests was to build a dam. Work
on this dam began in 1960 and took
ten years. It created the giant lake
Nasser, nearly three times bigger
than the new Ethiopian reservoir
will be. It regulated the flooding
of the Nile, generated power and a
agricultural lands to be indicated.
Tens of tens of thousands of people
were forced from their homes and an
ancient Egyptian temple had to be
moved brick by brick but it was a
symbol of great pride, a national
project, rejecting power for
revolutionary post-colonial Egypt.
It has been good for this man, who
at 60 has been a fisherman on the
Nile for 40 years. Just like his
father and grandfather before him.
Our life and livelihood
depends on the Nile. We as a family
lived by the river. We fished, we
grow crops on the islands in the
Nile. Our cattle are fed from the
Nile. All our food is from the Nile.
He has heard about the dam in the
Egyptian media. Ethiopia wants to
control the Nile and its floor will
be affected, but he's sceptical --
The water would be affected, but
only God knows what could happen if
the dam the river there will be wars
And there are even
bigger concerns downstream in
chaotic Cairo. Egypt relies on the
Nile for almost all its water but
the population is growing fast. The
United Nations is warning there will
be water shortages by 2025 because
of wastage and pollution. But the
Government argues it is already
recycling water, using it
efficiently and importing wheat
rather than using water to grow it.
Egypt's water Minister says one big
threat is climate change.
unilateral action in upstream
countries, it will have severe
impacts downstream and this is a
How angry are you?
I am extremely angry because we are
responsible for our nation which is
100 million. One of the key things I
would mention to you, if the water
coming to Egypt is used by 2%, what
does this mean? We lose about
200,000 acres of land. One acre at
least. If one acre makes one family
survive, the average family in Egypt
is five persons, so it means 1
million will be jobless. He says
that means more migrants
Europe and more people to be
recruited by terror groups.
and Egypt are suffering from what is
happening in Syria and Libya and
other countries so what if Egypt is
added to these countries? What will
happen? It is an international
Experts say Egypt
has the right to be angry. A dam was
being discussed but Ethiopia started
building without telling Egypt
judging the Arab spring. The impact
on stream has not been properly
assessed and although the
Renaissance Dam would extract water,
filling it to quickly will reduce
the flow downstream and it is a
trust issue. Ethiopia can now
control the river.
It is very much a
game changer. Now if Ethiopia is
combining the physical power of
being upstream country that can in
one way or another control the Nile
flow and the economic power of being
able to construct the dam depending
on its own domestic resources, so
yeah, it's an indication, it is a
manifestation that the power balance
is changing in the region, economic
way, politically and strategically
as well. -- economic Delhi.
The last stretch of the Nile is
where its famous Cotton is grown
alongside crops like rice, a
notoriously thirsty crop. Irrigating
fields by flooding them is one
reason why so much water is wasted.
The Delta is silting as the dam
stops being replenished. The reason
the Nile flood plains were so
productive to begin with. It is now
polluted and fish are dying and
people are getting poorer. Saltwater
is moving gradually upstream. It is
sad to see how this great river ends
up. This is it, this is where the
River Nile reaches the end of its
long journey. This behind me is the
Mediterranean Sea. You can see the
waves coming in, this is now
saltwater. Whatever Egypt says it
does, Ethiopia is building this dam.
It's not an idea or a plan, it's a
thing. You can already control the
flow of the River Nile. Egypt has
was been strong enough to dominate
the countries upstream but that is
changing. Talk of war is a foolish
thing to do to solve political
prices and every one we have spoken
to, nobody thinks that is going to
happen, but this is a really serious
problem and needs to be sorted out
quickly. The Nile is the place were
the world's first war over what can
be avoided. This could even become a
model of how countries can learn to
share great rivers. But for now,
it's up to Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt
to navigate tensions on the world's
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.