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Management Challenges
The primary wetlands of the Eastern Nile river basin include the Sudd Wetlands, the Machar Marshes, the Nile river delta / Lake Burulus and Lake Tana.

Land and Watershed Degradation; Soil Erosion; Sedimentation

A watershed is a hydro-geographical area of interacting natural resources – including soil, vegetation, and water – and animals and human beings (socio-economic systems) - interconnected by a single common river system. Good watershed management is maintaining the balance of the interaction among these natural resources. Watershed degradation happens when one component is relentlessly exploited (e.g. soil overexploitation or severe deforestation), thus destroying the link among the components (e.g. the link between maintaining forest and vegetation cover and ground water recharge and increased river flow).

With a total population of 110 million, the Eastern Nile watershed covers an area of 1.7 million square kilometers. The Eastern Nile watersheds, especially the steeper, upper Ethiopian highlands (over 31 million people), are severely degraded due to poverty-driven over exploitation of natural resources and disruption of the balance among the components. Mount Choke, Mount Guna, Molle, Upper Jamma, Upper Didessa Valley, Dinder valley, Beles Valley, in the Blue Nile/Abbay are the most critical clusters of watershed hotspots in the Ethiopian Highlands, without whose prior restoration all future water resources infrastructure development will be rendered of limited economic benefit to any one of the three countries.

The annual economic cost of watershed degradation in these highlands is currently estimated at USD 670 million, expected to reach at least USD 4.5 billion in 25 years. Watershed degradation impacts are not confined in the highlands, but run all along downstream in Sudan and Egypt. Between 157.2 and 207.2 Million Tons of sediment are transported annually from the Ethiopian highlands along the Blue Nile, Tekeze and Sobat main sub-basins of the Nile. These sediments entail huge costs to Sudan and Egypt –Hydropower under performance and high HP infrastructure maintenance costs, dredging costs of clogged irrigation channels, etc.

Integrated watershed management – a system of multifaceted interventions – (e.g. increasing agricultural productivity through improved farming systems, marketing, education, health care, education, energy supply, alternative employment, population policy, etc.) – is the proven way to address watershed degradation, which the joint (Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan) Eastern Nile Watershed Management Project (ENWSM) is promoting. Currently ENWSM has prepared watershed management projects that are being hosted by the three countries: Upper Rib, Upper Gumera, Jemma (Ethiopia); Dinder, Ingasena, Lower Atbara, Lau (Sudan) and Lake Nasser-Nubia (Egypt).

WATERSHEDS
Watershed problems of the Eastern Nile include: poverty-driven land degradation (mostly in the upper slopes of the Ethiopian highlands) resulting in fertility and soil loss; sedimentation of rivers (157-207 million tons/year); siltation of dams; underperformance of hydropower generation; siltation of irrigation channels and huge dredging costs thereof. The EN Watershed Management Project- jointly initiated by the Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan has conducted a Cooperative Regional Assessment which identified the most critical watershed hot spots. Mount Choke, Mount Guna, Molle, Upper Jamma, Upper Didessa Valley, Dinder valley, Beles Valley, in the Blue Nile/Abbay are the most critical clusters of watershed hotspots in the Ethiopian Highlands. Unless treated urgently, these hotspots and others will adversely affect the technical and economic performance of existing and any future water resources development infrastructure. The rehabilitation of the watersheds will consist of an integrated livelihood-watershed restoration approach. The following are ongoing fast track watershed projects in the Eastern Nile: Upper Rib, Upper Gumera, Jemma (Ethiopia); Dinder, Ingasena, Lower Atbara, Lau (Sudan) and Lake Nasser-Nubia (Egypt).

Floods & Droughts

Floods: The Eastern Nile comprises Major River systems that exhibit substantial inter and intra-annual variations of stream flows with almost 80-85% of the rainfall occurring during the months of June- September. Due to minimal flood storage in the region (except for Aswan Dam) and low national and regional flood management capacity, the countries in the EN region are vulnerable to floods, when rainfall is high. The extensive floodplains of Sudan and areas of Ethiopia are particularly at risk. According to an ENTRO study, the estimated Average Annual Damage (AAD) due to flood is estimated at USD 25.77 million in Sudan and USD 5.54 in Ethiopia respectively.

In Ethiopia: over 35% of the Gambella plain (Gambela, Itang, Abobo, Gog, Jor, Jikao, Akobo) is subject to annual flooding. The Foggera plains at the shores of Lake Tana are yearly flooded mainly when Ribb and Gumera rivers have high flows. In Sudan: Annual floods result in property damage affecting residential and industrial areas, schools, health centers, roads and others in Khartoum state, Umdurman city; Al Amirya locality; Jebel Awlia; and Sennar State.

Droughts: All three Eastern Nile countries suffer from the consequences of drought, more so the latter two. In less than 30 years (1970- 1998), for example, Ethiopia experienced more than 50 drought-induced large-scale disasters with an estimated 1.2 million deaths and more than 66 million people affected (USAID 2003). Sudan also experienced impacts of severe droughts during the same period. Drought brings semi-arid areas of Eastern Nile under sustained ecological stress, leading to increased migration of people and livestock (especially among pastoralists) and thus intensifying natural resource based conflicts (over water, grazing land).

With the impending climate change, the frequency and alteration of flood and drought cycles in Eastern Nile are expected to increase, with serious social, political and economic consequences. Currently the Flood Preparedness and Early Warning Project (FPEW) has concluded Phase 1 of the project through which it has enhanced regional coordination capabilities (i.e. data /information sharing; professional development, establishment of national flood coordination units) and in pilot communities in Sudan and Ethiopia introduced flood preparedness and emergency response modalities (i.e. flood risk mapping, non-structural community preparedness and response plans, peak season community surveillance, flood forecasting, warning and communication systems- including data acquisition, communication, forecasting, modeling systems, etc.).

FLOODS AND DROUGHTS
Summary: The Eastern Nile is a very sensitive river system showing large variations within and among years in terms of rainfall and amount of stream flows. The rainfall is generated in a relatively limited zone of Eastern Nile, mainly in the Ethiopian Highlands, with 80-85% of the rainfall taking place during June- September. Due to minimal flood storage capacity in the region (except Egypt-High Aswan Dam), the countries suffer from the impacts of drought and flood. In less than 30 years (1970- 1998), for example, Ethiopia experienced more than 50 drought-induced large-scale disasters with an estimated 1.2 million deaths and more than 66 million people affected (USAID 2003). Sudan also experienced impacts of severe droughts during the same period. Drought brings semi-arid areas of Eastern Nile under sustained ecological stress, leading to increased migration of people and livestock (especially among pastoralists) and thus intensifying natural resource based conflicts (over water, grazing land).

Flood events also result in significant loss in lives and resources, especially in Sudan and Ethiopia. According to an ENTRO study, the Average Annual flood Damage (AAD) is estimated at USD 25.77 million in Sudan and USD 5.54 in Ethiopia respectively. With the High Aswan Dam Egypt no longer suffers from Nile riverine flood damages. The Eastern Nile Flood Preparedness and Early Warning Project (FPEW) – a joint undertaking of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan - has strengthened regional coordination capabilities (i.e. data /information sharing; professional development, establishment of national flood coordination units) and piloted in select communities in Sudan and Ethiopia flood preparedness and emergency response modalities.

Wetland Degradation

Covered by water for at least part of the year, and including ecosystems such as swamps, marshes, and ponds, wetlands share characteristics with both land and water. Home to plants and animals adapted to their unique environment, wetlands are often areas of high biodiversity. Wetlands cover about 100,000 Km2 (3%) of the Nile Basin, and are found in every riparian country. The Sudd wetlands in Sudan – 4o55’-9o37’N/29o59’-31o57’E (average over 30,000 km2 , but extending up to 130,000 km 2 in the wet season- the largest in Africa); the wetlands of Lake Tana, Ethiopia (4000 km2) and the wetlands of Lower Egypt (20,000 km2) in Nile delta are of global importance for bird habitats and biodiversity, in addition to their positive role in the hydrology of the Nile. The Sudd provides important habitat for numerous species of birds, fish, and other wildlife (including over 400 bird species about 100 species of mammals; over 62 species of fish; numerous species of migrating and resident birds; over 1 million livestock), in addition to providing seasonal migration refuge for millions of large herbivores. Given these facts wetland degradation is a serious environmental problem in Eastern Nile.

In Ethiopia, major wetland degradation issues include: encroachment of cropland, tree planting and sedimentation in lacustrine wetlands; loss of flood buffering capacity and biodiversity in poorly drained valley bottom swamp wetlands and conversion into cropland cultivation with (over)drainage; falling of water tables; drying of springs. In Sudan similarly wetland degradation includes:, in the Rahad-Dinder wetland systems reduction of flood buffering and sediment trapping capacity; in the Blue Nile forest wetlands being threatened because of illegal felling; in the wetlands of Pibor catchment flood retreat grasslands are being threatened. In general the wetland systems are being threatened from accelerated deforestation and agricultural expansion (including complex, large-scale industrial scale commercial farming).

WETLANDS
The Sudd wetlands in Sudan (average over 30,000 square kilometers; wet season 130,000 square kilometers - the largest in Africa) and the wetlands of Lake Tana, Ethiopia (4000km2) and Lower Egypt (20,000 km2) in Nile delta are of global importance for bird habitats and biodiversity, in addition to their positive role in the hydrology of the Nile. The Sudd provides important habitat for numerous species of birds, fish, and other wildlife (including over 400 bird species about 100 species of mammals; over 62 species of fish; numerous species of migrating and resident birds; over 1 million livestock), in addition to providing seasonal migration refuge for millions of large herbivores. Further, the Rahad-Dinder wetlands (Sudan), the Pibor and Lake Tana wetlands (Ethiopia) are also important. Major threats to these wetlands include: encroachment and conversion into crop land, and agricultural expansion, including large scale farming; and consequently loss of flood buffering and sediment trapping capacity - all adverse impacts on the hydrology of Eastern Nile.

River bank erosion and Sand dunes

River bank erosion: River bank erosion occurs both naturally and through human impact. The natural process of riverbank erosion can produce floodplains and alluvial terraces. Bank erosion, (caused by natural river meandering) in terms of sediment (clay and silt) delivery to the river is considerable problem, particularly along the Abbay/Blue Nile. Human influences (e.g. removal of vegetation along the banks, dumping of material into the river, excavation of clay from the river bed, replacing deep rooting fruit trees with shallow root banana plantation along the banks) also is altering the very delicate balance of hydraulic forces and setting in chain a accelerated bank erosion along the Main Nile from Khartoum to Lake Nubia. The Atbara for the first 200 kilometers of its course in Sudan is incised some 50 meters or more below the surrounding clay plains, and thus does not have the river bank structure that is present in its lowest reaches and along the Main Nile. River bank erosion is thus more likely in lower than the upper reaches.

Sand dunes: The most hazardous dunes are located to the northeast of the Nile between Dongola and Karima. There are 14 smaller dune fields: four are on the river and ten are close by. Three larger fields are located 20 to 60 kilometers from the river. The source areas are the very extensive areas of loose and shifting sand that overlies the rock pavement. Those on the bank present a hazard for tipping sand into the river (though how much is still not known), whilst the other 10 are a hazard to settlements and irrigated fields. The smaller dune fields total some 14,300 ha, are generally elongated and aligned in the main wind direction some 2 to 4 kilometers wide, 5 to 15 kilometers long, presenting a narrow advancing front, which reduces the length of tree breaks required to halt the dunes. Sand dunes immediately threaten approximately 6,200 feddans (2,570 ha) of currently irrigated land (and some 13,860 ha of potentially irrigable land). In the absence of any measurements it is difficult to estimate the amount of sand tipping into the River. Two of the 14 dune fields about the river, each with a front of about 2.6 kilometers.

RIVER BANK EROSION AND SAND DUNES
Bank erosion: The natural process of riverbank erosion can produce floodplains and alluvial terraces. Bank erosion, (caused by natural river meandering) in terms of sediment delivery (clay and silt) to the Nile is a considerable problem, particularly along the Abbay/Blue Nile. Human influences (e.g. removal of vegetation along the banks) also is altering the very delicate balance of hydraulic forces and setting in chain of accelerated bank erosion along the Main Nile from Khartoum to Lake Nubia. River bank erosion is thus more frequent in lower than the upper reaches of Eastern Nile.

Sand dunes: The most hazardous dunes are located to the northeast of the Nile between Dongola and Karima. There are 14 smaller dune fields. Sand dunes immediately threaten approximately 6,200 feddans (2,570 ha) of currently irrigated land (and some 13,860 ha of potentially irrigable land). In the absence of any measurements it is difficult to estimate the amount of sand tipping into the Nile River. The most hazardous dunes are located to the northeast of the Nile between Dongola and Karima. There are 14 smaller dune fields there: four are on the river and ten close by. The Eastern Nile watershed management project’s work includes working out ways to prevent or mitigate the impact of sand dunes.

One river system- 3-country water resources development interventions

The need for coordination Eastern Nile, as a common resource, will pose growing challenge unless the three countries coordinate their respective national development and management activities, policies, programs and projects which is happening on one and the same river. Historically, the three countries used to pursue their respective national water resources development plans and paths with little, if any, communication and coordination. For example, the aggregate water demand of newly planned and/or expanded irrigation schemes of the three countries’ is beyond the capacity of the Eastern Nile to provide. Further, a number of water resources development infrastructure are planned or under construction along the stretches of Eastern Nile and Main Nile. As a result, there is now growing realization that such approaches carry significant risks, not only in terms of sub-optimal development outcomes, but also in terms of threatening the Eastern Nile river system and associated ecosystems. The NBI is striving to fill this gap in transboundary coordination and management by promoting the conclusion of a more structured, permanent, all-inclusive agreement. ENSAP, meanwhile, brings the three countries together under various technical review modalities and information exchange mechanisms and lends a trans-boundary perspective to each and every project it prepares.

COORDINATION
Historically, the three countries used to pursue their respective national water resources development plans and paths with little, if any, communication and coordination. Examples: the aggregate water demand of newly planned and/or expanded irrigation schemes of the three countries’ is beyond the capacity of the Eastern Nile to provide; a number of water resources development infrastructure are planned or under construction by each country along the stretches of Eastern Nile and Main Nile. The Nile Basin Initiative in general and the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program in particular (NBI/ENSAP) is striving to meet the need for coordination.

Irrigation

In their effort to satisfy the increasing food requirements of their growing populations, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan face a number of complex challenges associated with water scarcity, technology and institutions pertaining to irrigated agriculture. These challenges, in addition to overall growth in demand, are likely to be exacerbated by the impact of climate change, expected to result in water scarcity/drought and rainfall variability-uncertainty in semi-arid regions of the Nile basin. Further, each of the three Eastern Nile countries has unilaterally planned ambitious irrigation development and/or expansion plans whose aggregate demand exceeds what the Eastern Nile can provide. For the most part, existing irrigation schemes in Eastern Nile are characterized by old irrigation and drainage technologies, resulting in poor water use efficiency and productivity. Irrigation management is also considered inefficient, with little involvement of end-users i.e. farmers. This said though, irrigated agriculture is still of critical importance, providing for 50% of crop production (in volume) in Sudan and the entire production in Egypt and now, with drought and rainfall variability-uncertainty getting almost endemic, irrigation is geared to play a similar role in Ethiopia as well. A coordinated regional approach in the development of irrigated agriculture in the Eastern Nile is an inescapable necessity. That is why Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan are cooperating under the EN Irrigation and Drainage Study Project, to understand the major challenges and constraints and find common approaches. So far the project has undertaken a transboundary, distributive and institutional analyses of EN irrigation, including identification of irrigation projects.

IRRIGATION
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan face a number of complex irrigation agriculture related challenges associated with water scarcity, technology and institutions. Growing demand coupled with impact of climate change is expected to result in water scarcity. Further, each of the three Eastern Nile countries has unilaterally planned ambitious irrigation development and/or expansion plans whose aggregate demand exceeds what the Eastern Nile can provide. For the most part, existing irrigation schemes in Eastern Nile are characterized by old irrigation and drainage technologies, poor water use efficiency and productivity and inefficient irrigation management. The three countries are now cooperating, through the Eastern Nile Irrigation and Drainage Study Project (ENIDS) in developing a common approach to the challenges.

Population /demand growth, poverty, rapid urbanization, conflict

High population growth rates – both rural and urban - in the three countries pose development challenges in terms of increasing overall demand for water - for industrial, agricultural and urban use. Between 1980 and 2011, in 31 years, for example, the populations of Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia grew from 18.68, 40.56 and 35.41 million to 41.18, 79.8 and 86.64 million respectively i.e. more than doubled. (Source, for Sudan, World Bank; for Egypt and Ethiopia: IMF).

According to HDR (2010) Human Development Report Egypt ranks 101st (medium HDI), Ethiopia 157th (low HDI), and Sudan 154th (low HDI) respectively. Similarly, GNP per capita income for Egypt is USD 5889, Ethiopia 992 and Sudan 2051. The population below the national income poverty line for Egypt is 16 %, Ethiopia 44.2 % (HDR 2010) and Sudan 40% (CIA 2010). Projected Average Annual Population growth for the three countries (2010-15) has been respectively Egypt 1.7 %, Ethiopia 2.5 % and Sudan 2.0 %. Rapid urbanization is also a common feature of the three countries, with Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia having 43.4% and 42% and 16.7% respectively living in urban areas (HDR 2010).

The implication of the foregoing – high population growth rates, high poverty incidences, high urbanization rates for the management, development and utilization of the common Nile resources is immense, and might result in unsustainable competitive use, unless pro-active, forward-looking commonly agreed upon, transboundary approach is adopted..

In rural areas the foregoing – high population growth coupled with poverty – has intensified competition for and conflict over increasingly scarce land and water resources between and among farming and pastoralist communities, with multifaceted consequences, including acceleration of rural-urban migration. The nature of these natural resources-driven conflicts is also getting complex, overlaying over other critical variables such as ethnic, religious and regional identities, governance, etc.

POPULATION GROWTH, POVERTY . . . .
High population growth rates, high poverty incidences and high urbanization rates – all pose serious challenges in terms of meeting water demand (for agriculture, industry, municipal use, etc.) of the three countries. Between 1980 and 2011, in 31 years, the populations of Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia have more than doubled. The current population below the national income poverty line for Egypt is 16 %, Ethiopia 44.2 % (HDR 2010) and Sudan 40% (CIA 2010). Projected Average Annual Population growth for the three countries (2010-15) has been respectively Egypt 1.7 %, Ethiopia 2.5 % and Sudan 2.0 %. Rapid urbanization is also a common feature of the three countries, with Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia having 43.4% and 42% and 16.7% of their populations respectively living in urban areas (HDR 2010). Population growth-induced demand for water amidst resource degradation has resulted in poor rural farming and pastoralist households competing for ever shrinking resources and generating conflicting thereof. These challenges can be met only through a concerted cooperative action of the three countries, via catalytic and transformational large scale water infrastructure investments, (such as the envisaged the Joint Multipurpose Project -1, JMP-1-; the Eastern Nile Power Trade Studies- ENPTSP- and the completed Ethiopia-Sudan Transmission Interconnection Project) leading ultimately to regional integration, creating a common market of over 200 million Eastern Nile consumers.