The following post first appeared in Sudan on December 10, 2014

News agencies reported that the Sudanese National Assembly (Parliament) protested in a session on Wednesday 19 November 2014 what the deputies termed “the Sudan’s weak position” towards Egypt with regards to the Nile Water Agreement and they stressed the need for preserving its rights in the coming period. Water Resources and Electricity Minister Mutaz Mussa vowed at that parliamentary session that the Sudan would not relinquish its historic rights and would not give up a single cubic meter of its share. There is no nation that can prevent the Sudan from utilizing its full and complete share of the Nile water, he added. The Minister described, in his statement to the Parliament on a national plan for development and utilization of the water resources, the 1959 Nile Water Agreement as “unfair”. Yet he underlined that his government would remain committed to the agreement and not to trespass the right of anyone.

He predicted that utilization by the Sudan of its share of the Nile water would fend off the regional and international risks which might confront the Sudan in the future with regard to the water issue. Mussa declared that the Sudan intends to demand division of the increase in the annual average water revenue of 91 billion cubic meters as indicated in the Agreement. However, he admitted that this demand might be opposed by the other nations of the Nile Basin which consider the division of the water as a threat to their future utilization of the Nile water.

The national plan for development and utilization of the water resources, the Minister’s statement and the above-mentioned queries and remarks by the deputies evoke a number of questions which can be summed up as follows:
First: What is the Sudan’s share of the Nile water as stipulated in the Nile Water Agreement of 1959?
Second: How much is the quantity which the Sudan has managed to utilize?
Third: How much is the quantity which the Sudan has failed to utilize since the signing of the Nile Water Agreement on 8 November 1959 until this year?

In this article, we shall try to find answers to those questions

As we have indicated in several previous articles and in four TV interviews with Ustaz/ Al-Tahir Hassan al-Toam that the Sudan, throughout the period extending from signing the Agreement with Egypt in 1959 and until today, has failed to utilize 350 billion cubic meters of its share as indicated in the Nile Water Agreement. But in this article we are going to explain that the Sudan has in fact failed to utilize much more than this quantity and, as we have previously promised, we are now to explain the new figure in this article.

The quantity utilized by the Sudan out of its share has remained encompassed by ambiguity and official silence for long years. Egypt and the Sudan have agreed in the Nile Water Agreement they signed on 8 November 1959 that the quantity, as measured at Aswan Dam, is 84 billion cubic meters in the average as based on the average flow of the Nile since 1900. Egypt and Sudan kept all of this quantity for themselves after deducting the loss by evaporation and seepage at the High Dam Lake which was estimated at 10 billion cubic meters. The Sudan agreed that it would bear this loss equally with Egypt, although it would bear by itself alone the loss that would be caused by the evaporation at the dams it would build which is estimated at more than six billion cubic meters, including the estimated an annual 2.5 billion cubic meters at Jebel Awlia Dam.
Egypt managed to convince the Sudanese delegation during the Nile water negotiations in 1959 that the High Dam would be for the interest of both countries and, accordingly, the Sudan agreed to bear half of the quantity of evaporation at the High Dam Lake. It appears odd that there are former irrigation ministers and technicians who are still convinced of this argument.

The two nations agreed to divide between themselves the remaining Nile water which is 74 billion cubic meters (after deduction of the evaporation loss at the High Dam Lake) provided that 55.5 billion cubic meters would go to Egypt and 18.5 billion cubic meters to Sudan. Under that Agreement, the Sudan agreed to grant Egypt a 1.5 billion cubic meter loan to expire in 1977, raising Egypt’s share to 57 billion cubic meters and decreasing the Sudan’s share down to 17 billion cubic meters.
Among the numerous oddities of the 1959 Nile Water Agreement was that it did not indicate the date and the manner in which the water loan would be given back to the Sudan. Reference to the loan was made in the appendix, rather than the body of the agreement.

However, there was a strong belief by the international circles engaged in water studies that the Sudan has failed since the first years of the Agreement in utilizing its share of the Nile water. The dams of Sennar, Al-Rosaries and Khashm Al-Girbah have over the years lost half of their storage capacity due to accumulation of the silt carried by the Blue Nile and River Atbara from the Ethiopian Plateau which together are estimated to bring in more than 120 tons of silt each year, the larger portion of which accumulates in the lakes of those dams. This was a clear indication of the failure by Sudan to utilize its full share of the Nile water. The silt was also behind the decline of the Gezira Scheme, blocking the irrigation canals and, thus, the farms could not get sufficient water. The Gezira Scheme was the biggest consumer of the Nile water, using about eight billion cubic meters which was equal to half of the Sudan share after deducting the water loan given to Egypt.

The belief in failure by the Sudan to utilize its share was strengthened by two factors: silence by the Sudanese officials about continuity or expiry of the water loan to Egypt by 1977 and absolute avoidance of speaking about restoration of this loan and also the uttermost silence about the actual figure of the quantity of the Nile water the Sudan consumes each year.

These two factors are closely linked together as there is no sense that the Sudan demands the annual 1.5 billion cubic meter loan while it has failed to utilize the greater portion of its original 18.5 billion cubic meter share. This is something we are going to discuss below.

Debate over the quantity of the water the Sudan utilizes from its share continued heatedly for some time as a result of the formal silence on the matter. A number of senior officials and consultants of the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources insist that the Sudan consumes its full 18.5 billion cubic meter share of the Nile water. Some of them declared this allegation in a number of public meetings.
In the meantime, reports by international organizations and United Nations agencies concerned with water indicate that the annual Sudan’s usage of the water falls within the limit of 14 billion cubic meters. This figure, which appeared on the websites of those institutions, was quoted by some scientific books and articles and was accepted by a number of water specialists, like Professor Robert Collins, the Nile water expert, as was widely circulated.

For his part, former Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Kamal Ali Mohamed (1999-2011) contradicted this figure by declaring in statements to a number of Sudanese satellite TV channels on 9 August 2011 that the Sudan’s annual consumption is not more than 12 billion cubic meters a year. The Sudanese Al-Sahafa daily newspaper published those statements under the headline: “The Sudan will not relinquish its share of the Nile water.” The Minister’s remarks included one in which he said: “The Sudan has an inclusive plan for full utilization of its share of the Nile water. We might have been late in utilization of our full share as the Sudan draws a total 12 billion cubic meters. We are planning to establish a number of projects for utilization of the full share.” He stressed that the Sudan would not relinquish a single meter of its share. (See the statements by the former Irrigation Minister as published on page three of Al-Sahafa daily on 10 August 2011).

There was a striking resemblance between the statements by former Minister Mohamed on 9 August 2011 and those made by current Minister Mussa in the National Assembly on 19 November 2014. The latter said: “The Sudan will not relinquish its historic rights in the Nile water and will not give up a single meter of its share,” adding: “There is no nation that can prevent the Sudan from utilizing its full and complete share.”

The remarks by the Sudan’s Number One water resources expert have put an end to the controversy over this issue and have removed the ambiguity surrounding it altogether. The news agencies transmitted those statements in a flash in several languages. The international academies and organizations were pleased with the statements which provided them with an official figure by the Sudanese government, a figure which could and must be relied on. Of course those institutions adjusted their figure to indicate that the Sudan consumes only 12 billion cubic meters a year of its 18.5 billion share of the Nile water. The remarks also put an end to speculations about the issue.

The statement by the Minister that the Sudan usage of its Nile water share of 18.5 billion cubic meters does not exceed 12 billion means, in a simple counting process, that the Sudan has failed to utilize 6.5 billion each year and until today, that is, over a period of 55 years. And multiplying these two figures, it will turn out that the Sudan has failed to utilize 357 billion cubic meters. One former minister said the Sudan did not lose this quantity because it is stored in the High Dam Lake, which is an astonishing argument. The High Dm Lake was capacity filled in 1970 when the storage reached 162 billion cubic meter and no more water could be stored in it, even for Egypt, and, moreover, there was no agreement with Egypt for storing a single cubic meter for the Sudan, let alone 350 billion cubic meters.

The argument that the Sudan has failed to use 350 billion cubic meters from its share was based on the assumption that the total Nile water flow as measured at Aswan is 84 billion cubic meters a year as indicated in the Nile Water Agreement of 1959. This figure was the average of the River Nile revenue during the period extending from 1900 until 1958 which was included in the Agreement.
But what was the agreement between the two parties in case the water revenue exceeded 84 billion cubic meters a year? The 1959 agreement stipulated that if the average exceeded 84 billion cubic meters a year, the increase would be divided equally by the two countries (see Paragraph two of the 1959 Nile Water Agreement). In fact, the River Nile revenue has remained increasing continuously since 1960, something which made Egypt fill the High Dam Lake with 160 billion cubic meters in a short period of time of not more than 10 years, without affecting the irrigation projects and programmes in Egypt.

The Nile water revenue reached 117 billion cubic meters in 1961, then 124 billion in 1964 and 104 billion in 1967. The flow over those years was about 90 billion cubic meters and in 1975 it reached 123 billion cubic meters, then 115 billion in 1988. The highest revenue was in 1998 when it recorded 126 billion, then in 2008 it was 110 billion cubic meters.

The UN agencies and other organizations concerned with the water resources have, accordingly, adjusted their figures on the River Nile revenue. The UNDP reports indicate that the average of the River Nile flow is 109 billion, rather than 84 billion cubic meters. It is to be mentioned that Minister Mu’taz Mussa pointed out in the Parliament on 19 November 2014 that the average River Nile revenue is 91 billion cubic meters, thus making the average 84 billion cubic meters an outdated figure.

Let us assume that the figures given by the Minister were accurate and, accordingly, the average revenue has been 91 billion cubic meters since 1960, which means there was an annual seven billion cubic meters increase over the 84 billion figure indicated in the Agreement which stipulates that this increase would be divided equally between the two countries. The Sudan has not utilized a single cubic meter of its 3.5 billion share of this increase since 1960.
Adding this new figure to the 6.5 billion which the Sudan has failed to utilize from its original share of 18.5 billion, it would turn out that the Sudan has failed to use 10 billion cubic meters each year since 1960, that is, 540 billion cubic meters over the past 54 years, according to the figures given by the Minister himself.

If we count on UNDP figures that the average of the River Nile water flow in 1960 was 109 billion cubic meters, the increase will be 25 billion a year of which the Sudan, according to the 1959 Agreement, deserves 12.5 billion cubic meters a year. If this figure is added to the original 6.5 billion, the Sudan failure of utilization of its rights will be 19 billion each year since 1960 until today, totaling 1,026 billion cubic meters during the past 54 years.

It seems that the difference between the Minister’s figure (91 billion) and that of the UNDP (109 billion) was because the Minister counted on the average Nile water revenue between 1900 and 2012 (or 2014), while the UNDP used the average revenue between 1960 and 2012. The UNDP was correct because the average should have been counted after signing the Agreement in 1959, that is, since 1960 until 2012, because the average before 1960 became outdated.

We believe that the Sudan has Forsaken a great deal of its share of the Nile water, no matter which figure- the Minister’s figure (91 billion) or that of UNDP (109 billion)- is correct, or whether the average was over the past 50 years, 20 years or the last 10 years. This has occurred despite statements by successive Irrigation ministers, both technocrats and politicians, stated that the Sudan would not forsake a single meter of its share of the Nile water.
This situation will continue, if it does not worsen, whether we agree or disagree, because the infrastructure of our main schemes (the Gezira, Al-Rahad, Al-Suki and Halfa Al-Jadidah) increasingly deteriorates and declines in front of our eyes each day. The President of the Board of Directors of the Gezira Scheme, Dr. Karrar Abbady, tendered his resignation after he had realized that his mission of restoring the Scheme to its good old days was impossible to achieve.

The inhabitants of Wadi Halfa have made tremendous sacrifices of experiencing coercive relocation of more than 50,000 people and submersion of 27 villages in addition to the city of Wadi Halfa. Their sacrifices included the loss of 200,000 feddans (hectares) of fertile lands and others that could have been reclaimed, more than a million fruitful date and citrus trees, their houses, the graves of their beloved relatives and tombs of their late religious leaders and a large part of their history and heritage. Moreover, the Sudanese people bore about two-thirds of the cost of relocation.

All those sacrifices were made in exchange for an annual 18.5 billion cubic meters for irrigation of the Gezira Scheme and Managil Extension.

What can be said to the people of that region after the Sudan has utterly failed to utilize the larger portion of its share of the Nile Water and after the collapse of the Gezira Scheme. These are the two reasons for which those people have sacrificed.