A Story with an Unknown Ending About a Man and Another Man, And About Water Beyond Boundaries/ Ram Aviram

On 2 April 2011, Ethiopia announced it was commencing construction of the biggest hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile – The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – which would play a vital role in Ethiopia’s economic development. For the first time in thousands of years, an upstream country on the Nile sought to substantially exploit its water, and thus to undermine Egypt’s confidence in its primary water source, and its absolute domination of the river’s water due to its strength. The announcement and the construction, which commenced immediately, resulted in strained relations between the two countries, and intensive negotiations. Those countries are  between war and the possibility of an agreed solution. Since then, Ethiopia has continued the dam’s construction, which is due to be completed in July 2022, at which time part of the Nile’s water will be trapped in a large reservoir.

1. In the beginning there were water and rivers

Water is the source of life.

Water behaves in accordance with the laws of nature: flowing from a high place to a lower one, 

Gushing along channels formed by nature,

Completing its regular cycle from river to sea to cloud to rain.

There is a fixed quantity of water in the world.

Humans today are drinking the same water the dinosaurs drank.

The Nile, the world’s longest river, flows across thousands of kilometers from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea –

Thus, from time immemorial,  millions of years,

Even before Lucy, Mother of Man, lived on the banks of the Nile in Ethiopia about three million years ago.

2. Then a man, and another man, and yet another, created borders

A border is a separation line, it is an external line that defines territory and power, it represents barrier and ends.

A man wanted to set a border in order to define, and to delimit, all that belongs to him: land, nature, law.

Manmade borders are artificial by their very nature.

The man says: Here I am in my territory, within my borders –

The other is whoever is on the other side of the border. 

And the other is a man who says: Here I am in my territory, within my borders –

The other is whoever is on the other side of the border. 

Thus are the borders between the Nile countries,

And between Ethiopia and Sudan, and Sudan and Egypt. 

3. But water is indifferent to borders

Flowing water crosses borders.

There is no barrier, no fence that it cannot traverse.

Borders were determined between eleven countries, and the Nile flows between them,

Crossing eight borders without distinguishing one man from another,

Without distinguishing one nation from another.

The man and another man set borders to delimit their water,

And the water belongs to both: to the people of Ethiopia and to the people of Egypt who share the River Nile.

Troubled Waters: The Nile Conflict

A turn of the tide in the Mediterranean

4. Between man and water

As already stated: Water is the source of life.

The man has to drink, water his fields, produce energy that enables him to live.

And the other has to drink, water his fields, produce energy that enables him to live.

And water, as already stated, behaves in accordance with the laws of nature –

It flows in one river from upstream to downstream,

In years blessed with abundant water, and years of drought.

This is the water that sustained the man when his numbers were small, and now 200 million.

There is not enough water in the river to meet the deficiency.

Thus, the man and the other are dependent upon each other: if one takes, the other will suffer water shortage, if the other builds a dam, the man will suffer water shortage.

5. Between the man and the other

Law and justice between sovereign nations are inadequate in matters of shared water resources,

Nor can a wise council rule how much of the water, or how, may be used by one or the other.

How will man and man, and nation and nation, share the water between them?

The man has power, money, tradition, culture, and powerful friends.

The other has power, money, tradition, culture, and powerful friends.

All these are never equal between man and man.

And the water will surrender to the will of stronger of the two, and will be collected within his borders.

If the strong so wishes, he will hold much water, and the other little.

If the strong wishes otherwise, and holds sufficient water for his needs, but also sees the needs of the other.

6. More between man and man

Since time immemorial, the man has said: All the water is mine – a gift from Allah – the world knows that the Nile is Egyptian,

If there is no Nile, there is no Egypt.

The Blue Nile flows from the Ethiopian Highlands to the plains of Egypt.

The man said: I am strong, I need, ,

The other said: The Nile is also mine – I will build a dam to bring renaissance to Ethiopia –

It is vital for the poor in my cities,

Only a dam will enable development.

The man said: I will control the water of the Nile for my needs,

As a source of life.

What does the other do? – He surrenders,

And bides its time.

There is nothing in the world that is not constantly changing.

And the man – his power, his money, his ability to enlist his friends.

And thus, one day, when it seems that the man is weaker,

The other begins building the dam.

7. The preparing man

Water is the source of life, as already stated.

If the man takes, the other will suffer shortage, as already stated.

And perhaps it is possible for the man to take, and for the other not to suffer shortage, as yet unstated.

Who can find a magical formula?

Meanwhile – the other builds a dam, and the man returns and calculates his loss.

The man and the other – here they are preparing for a struggle.

But the man stops himself,

While the other adds another brick, and another.

The man searches for friends and prepares.

8. The threatening man

The man and the other are grasped in each another’s clutches – the water is the same water.

The other and the man – clutching at each other’s throats? Not yet.

The man said: “If it loses one drop, our blood is the alternative”.

The other said: “ the damis a symbol of our rise, and a manifestation of our ability to advance ourselves”.

Troubled Waters: The Nile Conflict

9. Friends of the man and the other

The man ponders:

If he fights – will he win?

If he wins – what will he lose?

And friends of the man and the other search for a magical formula,

How can one have without the other suffering shortage?

The friends propose: The water will produce energy and flow onward from the other to the man.

Said the other: This is a good solution, but thirty years from now.

Said the man: This is a good solution, but this year.

And once more the man and the other prepare, the man threatens, the man ponders.

9. Some say, others do

Water flows.

Poverty deepens.

Shortage increases.

Said the man – Let us talk, perhaps the formula can be found.

Said the other – The dam the dam the dam 

10. Man, man, and water

And what will be recorded in the history of man and the other?

Did the water turn into blood?

Shlomi Charka, 2020

*Opening image- Negev Brigade – 1 –  The water line to the Negev settlements, The Palmach Archive, source: Vikimedia