The following has been submitted by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:
The Next Century Foundation is concerned about the ramifications of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Nile River water levels will be significantly reduced during the years over which the dam is being filled by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. This affects the Arab Republic of Egypt, as well as of course the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan.
We note recent discussions between the Governments of Egypt and the Republic of South Sudan on the viability of the Jonglei Canal’s construction in the Sudd wetland. This draining of the wetlands could compensate for downstream Nile River water loss caused by dam construction in the short term, and restore the Nile to historic water levels in the longer term.
The Sudd is one of the world’s largest wetlands, but it loses more than 50% of its water to evaporation annually, lessening downstream states’ water availability. The proposed canal (or more probably two canals) could divert approximately 4.8 cubic gigameters that would otherwise evaporate over the wetland. As well as restoring short term water level loss from dam construction, in the longer term it could ameliorate losses as a consequence of drought.
Such a project would be beneficial to the agricultural development of South Sudan. We urge Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to cooperate with South Sudan and investigate the viability of the Jonglei Canal. But we advise countries concerned to remember of the project’s potential ecological and environmental ramifications:
- The displacement of riparian populations along the Sudd wetlands.
- Disruptions to seasonal movement of livestock and wildlife.
- Reduction of rainfall in the Sudd region, spurred by the diversion of water.
- Any potential increase in the release of global warming associated gasses as the wetlands are drained.
With those caveats we regard this project as urgent.