Ethiopia’s GERD dam will make Egypt’s Nile delta sink under the Med, study says

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By GCR Staff

It may be Ethiopia’s symbol of national pride, but the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) being built for hydroelectric power on the Blue Nile will have grave and unexpected consequences for its downstream neighbour, Egypt, according to a report published in the US.

The multi-year study of Egypt’s Nile Delta estimates that GERD could reduce the flow of water to Egypt by as much as 25%, restricting its fresh water supply and diminishing its ability to generate power.

These are already matters of contention between the two countries, but the study published by the Geological Society of America (GSA) flags up another, unexpected risk – that of the eventual submerging of parts of the low-lying Nile Delta region under the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

In their paper published in the journal, GSA Today, Jean-Daniel Stanley and Pablo L. Clemente argue that GERD’s restriction of Nile-born silt onto the delta, combined with sinking of the delta due to natural seismic compaction, could mean that parts of delta surface now above sea level will be underwater by the end of this century.

The scientists call for some form of arbitration by regional or global bodies to be applied to the “delicate situation”.

They worry, too, about the wider region, where some 400 million people live in the 10 countries along the Nile, with some now already experiencing severe droughts and unmet energy needs and “a multitude of economic, political, and demographic problems”.

Background

The soil-rich delta evolved as the result of natural conditions involving the Nile’s fresh water flow and transport of sediment northward from Ethiopia, across Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean.

About 70% of water flow reaching Egypt is derived from the Blue Nile and Atbara rivers, both sourced in Ethiopia.

“It is hoped that rather than resorting to threats and military action, some form of arbitration by regional or global bodies be applied to the delicate situation”
– Geological Society of America paper
Over the past 200 years, rapidly increasing human activity has seriously altered flow conditions of the Nile. Emplacement in Egypt of barrages in the 1800s, construction of the Aswan Low Dam in 1902, and the Aswan High Dam in 1965 have since altered water flow and distribution of nourishing organic-rich soil in the delta.

Egypt’s population has rapidly swelled to about 90 million, with most living in the soil-rich Lower Nile Valley and Delta. These two areas comprise only about 3.5% of Egypt’s total area, the remainder being mostly desert.

Due to much-intensified human impact, the delta no longer functions as a naturally expanding fluvial-coastal centre.

Less than 10% of Nile water now reaches the sea, and most of the nutrient-rich sediment is trapped in the delta by a dense canal and irrigation system.

Already sinking

The low-lying delta plain is only about 1m above present sea level. The northern third of the delta is lowering at the rate of about 4-to-8mm per year due to compaction of strata underlying the plain, seismic motion, and the lack of sufficient new sediment to re-nourish the delta margin being eroded by Mediterranean coastal currents.

While the coastal delta margin is being lowered, sea level is also rising at a rate of about 3mm per year. Delta lowering and sea-level rise thus accounts for submergence of about 1cm per year.

At present rates, saline intrusion is now reaching agricultural terrains in central delta sectors, and the scientists say parts of delta surface will be underwater by the year 2100.

Ethiopia, itself energy-poor and undergoing drought conditions, is nearing completion of GERD, the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa.

The large reservoir behind the dam is to be filled over a period lasting up to seven years, during which it is expected that the amount of Nile flow to the delta will be reduced by as much as 25%, the scientists say.

This down-river decrease of Nile fresh water will produce “grave conditions”, they add.

Water and food shortages

Without GERD, the Nile supplies around 97% of Egypt’s present water needs, with only 660 cubic meters per person, one of the world’s lowest annual per capita water shares.

With a population expected to continue surging, Egypt is projected to experience critical fresh water and food shortages.

“It is hoped that rather than resorting to threats and military action, some form of arbitration by regional or global bodies be applied to the delicate situation,” the authors write.

“Increased Land Subsidence and Sea-Level Rise are Submerging Egypt’s Nile Delta Coastal Margin”, was written by Jean-Daniel Stanley, Senior Scientist Emeritus, and Pablo L. Clemente, Research Fellow, Mediterranean Basin (MEDIBA) Project, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. It is available to view here.
Image: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, under construction on the Blue Nile, will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa (http://www.geosociety.org/)

5 Responses to Ethiopia’s GERD dam will make Egypt’s Nile delta sink under the Med, study says

  1. We don’t give a fuck! Egypt can keep paying for as money unknown organizations it wants to fabricate lies, but Ethiopia will not stop from developing and using her natural resources.

    Ethioman
    March 15, 2017 at 5:06 pm
    Reply

  2. I don’t believe this garbled up article to have any merits that the dam will be the main culprits. The delta mentioned in the article has been sinking for centuries now. What Egypt should do is put it loafing engineers to work and find solutions at home not thousands of miles away. Shame on this so-called ‘society’. Egypt is very lucky enough to be surrounded by massive waters on it 3 sides. She should learn how to use what it possesses now efficiently from its next door neighbor, Israel. Other than that, these ‘Aswadi Abd’s’, ‘Niggas’ south of you are zeroing in on that colonial time biased treaty. O Boy! Those ‘abds’ in Rwanda are talking about it. Musevini is saying very bad things about it. The Kenyans are bashing it. Tanzanians are hopping mad by just looking at it. Burundi has already shouted ‘forget about it!’. So learn it and live it boyeeeeeeee!!!!

    Ittu Aba Farda
    March 15, 2017 at 7:51 pm
    Reply

  3. From rising levels of air pollution to increased water contamination and a widening range for disease-carrying mosquitoes, climate change is making people sick, a coalition of 11 US medical groups said Wednesday.

    Known as the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, the group represents more than half of US doctors, and aims to help policy makers understand the health dangers of global warming, and what must be done to guard against it in the coming years.

    “Doctors in every part of our country see that climate change is making Americans sicker,” said Mona Sarfaty, a physician and director of the new consortium.

    “Physicians are on the frontlines and see the impacts in exam rooms. What’s worse is that the harms are felt most by children, the elderly, Americans with low-income or chronic illnesses, and people in communities of color.”

    The group is releasing a report that highlights the ways climate change affects health, and calls for a speedy transition to clean renewable energy.

    The report, called “Medical Alert! Climate Change is Harming Our Health,” will be circulated to members of the Republican-dominated Congress.

    Some of its key warnings relate to heart and breathing problems associated with increasing wildfires and air pollution, as well as injury from extreme heat events.

    Infectious diseases can spread more widely as ticks carrying Lyme disease and mosquitoes with West Nile virus expand their range.

    Extreme weather, such as hurricanes and droughts, may become more common, destroying not only homes and livelihoods but also wreaking havoc on people’s mental health, it warned.

    Most Americans are not aware that increases in asthma attacks and allergies are linked to climate change, according to the report.

    A poll from 2014 suggested that only one in four Americans could name even one way in which climate change is harming our health.

    People are not powerless, the group urged. They can push for a quicker transition to renewable solar and wind energy, and also do what they can to walk and bike more instead of driving.

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    “Here’s the message from America’s doctors on climate change: it’s not only happening in the Arctic Circle, it’s happening here,” said Sarfaty.

    “It’s not only a problem for us in 2100, it’s a problem now. And it’s not only hurting polar bears, it’s hurting us.”

    Rhondaer
    March 16, 2017 at 5:37 am
    Reply

  4. The mercenary writer wrote this article just what the Egyptian narrated him. Nothing new scientific analysis on the impact of GERD on Egypt from the article. “It is hoped that rather than resorting to threats and military action, some form of arbitration by regional or global bodies be applied to the delicate situation,” the authors write.The above statement shows boldly that the author has a conflict of interest than performing genuine research. All figures mentioned in the article do not have any significance comparing to other natural factors causing variability of the flow and its impact. For the sake of our national interest, Ethiopian expert who studied on this subject deeply should pick up their pen to expose fake research of a corrupted researcher like this. This kind of politics is not seasonal….

    Shiromeda
    March 16, 2017 at 6:50 pm
    Reply

  5. I don’t believe this garbled up article to have any merits that the dam will be the main culprits. The delta mentioned in the article has been sinking for centuries now. What Egypt should do is put it loafing engineers to work and find solutions at home not thousands of miles away. Shame on this so-called ‘society’. Egypt is very lucky enough to be surrounded by massive waters on it 3 sides. She should learn how to use what it possesses now efficiently from its next door neighbor, Israel. Other than that, these ‘Aswadi Abd’s’, ‘Niggas’ south of you are zeroing in on that colonial time biased treaty. O Boy! Those ‘abds’ in Rwanda are talking about it. Musevini is saying very bad things about it. The Kenyans are bashing it. Tanzanians are hopping mad by just looking at it. Burundi has already shouted ‘forget about it!’. So learn it and live it boyeeeeeeee!!!!

    Ittu Aba Farda
    March 17, 2017 at 12:00 am
    Reply

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