April 3, 2011

Dar’s new water project risks yet another diplomatic row with Egypt

Tanzania is headed for another diplomatic row with Egypt and Sudan over its decision to draw water for domestic use from Lake Victoria.

This will be the country’s second project using Lake Victoria water, which will be drawn for domestic use in Tabora Region, 278 kilometres south of the lake.Designs for the project are to be drawn up this July with implementation set for January 2013 and completion in December 2014.

The first project, in 2004, was implemented in two phases under which Lake Victoria water was pumped overland to benefit residents of Kahama and Shinyanga towns, about 176 kilometres to the south of the lake.

The $85.1 million project will serve a population of 420,000. It is reportedly raising concern in Egypt and Sudan, the main interested parties in the River Nile, of which Lake Victoria is a major source.

According to the press attaché at the Egypt embassy in Dar es Salaam, Ahmed Abdel Fatah, they have not been informed about the current project.

The two Nile Basin treaties signed during the British colonial era in 1929 and 1959 between Britain and the Egyptian government restricted the carrying out of any project on the Nile River tributaries or their lakes that could adversely affect its water level without Cairo’s consent.

However, through the Draft Agreement on a Nile River Basin Co-operative Framework, Section 15, all countries, except Egypt and Sudan, take the position that the treaties in question are illegal, arguing that they were negotiated and signed before Independence for Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda and the other riparian states.

The framework involves nine countries: the five East African Community member states, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ministry of Water deputy director for urban water Elizabeth Kingu told The EastAfrican that the current project would cost Tsh255 billion ($170 million).

She noted that the project would be partly funded by the Tanzania government and its development partners including World Bank under the Water Sector Development Programme.

Asked about Egypt and Sudan’s concerns, she said based on the previous experience, “The quantity of water drawn or to be drawn for both Shinyanga and Tabora is very little compared with the size of the lake.”

Lake Victoria covers 68,800 square kilometres bordering Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Its maximum depth is 80 metres.

Apart from Tabora town, the regional headquarters, the planned project will also benefit Nzega, Igunga Kagongwa, Isaka and Muheze towns as well as residents of 76 villages situated along the pipeline.

Tanzania’s Vice President Mohamed Gharib Bilal described the project as a solution to persistent water problems in the areas covered.

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