18 January 2013

Egypt Sounds Caution Over Lake Victoria Water Use

EGYPT has no objection on use of water from Lake Victoria for various purposes by countries surrounding it, as long as the respective project has no harm to the country, Egyptian minister for water has affirmed.

Egypt's Minister for Water Resources, Dr Mohamed Eldin Ahmed, told the 'Daily News' in an exclusive interview on Wednesday that his country is committed to constructive cooperation in using water from the biggest body of fresh water in Africa."It is true that countries surrounding the lake have rights to use water from this lake, but they should do so in consultation with other countries which depend on the lake," Dr Ahmed said.

The minister was in the country for a two-day official visit where he also met Minister for Water, Prof Jumanne Maghembe. This is a first official visit by a high-ranking government official from Cairo since the Egyptian revolution of 2011.As part of his visit, the minister also officiated at the launching of boreholes in Maswa District which were drilled through a support from the government of Egypt to provide portable water to rural dwellers at a cost of 1m US Dollars (approximately 1.5bn/-).

The Egyptian minister, however, took issues with the new Cooperative Framework Agreement for Lake Victoria which he blamed for not recognizing 'historical rights' of Sudan and Egypt."We are nonetheless working with countries in the Lake Victoria basin towards a consensus regarding the best use of water," the visiting minister said.

The Nile Water Agreement of 1929, granting Egypt the lion's share of the Nile waters, has been criticised by East African countries as a colonial relic.The treaty, which Britain signed on behalf of its east African colonies, forbids any projects that could threaten the volume of water reaching Egypt. The agreement also gives Cairo the right to inspect the entire length of the Nile.

Meanwhile, Dr Ahmed also hinted during that interview that his government is looking forward to supporting access to water among rural dwellers by drilling about 70 wells."It is the government of Tanzania that will choose where it wants the wells to be drilled. Having constructed 30 wells in the first stage, we will drill about 70 new more wells across the country," he said.

Implementation of the initiative, however, is after parliamentary and council elections in Egypt slated for early April, this year.Dr Ahmed also said his government would continue receiving students from Tanzania to be trained in water resources management, hydraulic engineering and environmental hydrology, among others.

He pointed out that technology transfer among countries in the continent was much easier and effective to spur development.

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