Syria reduced the flow of Euphrates river, gated by the Oyoun Orghosh springs further
while it was filling up Lake Assad in 1975.
up the mountain. In September 2008 villagers
Tension between Turkey, Syria and Iraq over from Nabha demonstrated against villagers up-
the Euphrates and the Tigris continues today, stream, to assert their share of water for irriga-
because of Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia tion and drinking.
project, a US$32 000 million scheme to build
22 dams on the Euphrates and Tigris. This The Nile river poses a different problem. The
would substantially benefit Turkey, covering river’s basin is shared by 10 countries,
22 per cent of its electricity requirements and constitutes more than 10 per cent of Africa’s
irrigating some 1.7 million hectares of land. surface. Some 160 million people depend on
But the project is already having a negative ef- the Nile for their livelihood. Under an agree-
fect on neighbouring countries, with less wa- ment dating from 1929 between Egypt and
ter reaching downstream Syria and Iraq. In Britain, the colonial power of the period, Egypt
1998 Turkey and Syria were on the verge of enjoys an almost complete monopoly of the
war, among others due to disagreements over water in the Nile. A subsequent agreement, in
the share-out of the Euphrates.
The dams 1959, divided Nile water rights between Egypt
Turkey has built on the upper Euphrates have and Sudan, giving Egypt 55 500 million cubic
dramatically reduced the flow of water, which metres and Sudan 18 500 million cubic metres.
may impact on Syrian and Iraqi farming ac- Other countries were not consulted before this
Moreover Syria and Iraq are afraid agreement, so Egypt and Sudan can veto plans
Turkey now has the means to blackmail them by upstream countries to develop extensive use
with the threat of water cuts whenever there is of the Nile waters. The Nile Basin Initiative was
a conflict of interests. The projected Ilisu dam launched in 1999 to correct this situation and
on the Tigris, and particularly its construction, develop the river in cooperatively, in partner-
has prompted considerable opposition from ship with the World Bank. Yet critics still main-
the inhabitants of neighbouring Hasankeyf, as tain that Egypt is the prime beneficiary.
well as environmentalists.
the region’s population projected to double in
the next 25 years, and water demand rising
Yet potential conflicts over water are not nec- steadily, upstream countries may well dispute
essarily transboundary in nature. Conflicts in existing international agreements on the Nile
the Bekaa region of Lebanon and on the east- river.
Egypt and Sudan depend almost entirely
ern slopes of Mount Lebanon have been linked on the Nile for their water supply, especially for
to the management of scarce water. A conflict farming. The total discharge of the Nile at the As-
flared recently between villages around Nabha, wan dam is about 94 000 million cubic metres,
1 000 metres downstream, at the limit between whereas only 400 million cubic metres flow out
the mountain and the Bekaa. The land is irri- of the Nile Delta into the Mediterranean.