16832108_400056293687345_8210064437945621213_n-2By Donald Brooks

Hosted by The Nile Project, a panel discussion was held on February 28th at Ohio University to discuss some of the most critical issues concerning the Nile River Basin Transboundary. With eleven countries either upstream or down depending on the Nile River for human sustenance and economic development, upstream countries’ use of the Nile River Basin has sparked debate. This is largely due to historical water right agreements and the disadvantage of downstream countries being negatively impacted by upstream river project development.

Serving on the panel to discuss transboundary conflict was Dr. Geoff Dabelko, Director of Environmental Studies; Dr. Steve Howard, Director of the Center for International Studies; Dr. Thomas Smucker, Assistant Professor in the Geography Department; and Dr. Nancy Stevens, professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. All members of the panel brought a separate field perspectives that gave insight to different aspects of transboundary limitations and proposals for strategies for conflict resolution.

One of the critical questions I asked that sparked discussion was focused on upstream countries (i.e. Ethiopia) incentive to defer/cancel dam project development aside from preventing water war conflict with downstream countries (i.e. Egypt). With increased population projections, climate change and pollution and, increase demand for food, nations desperately plan development to meet the demand of their growing populations. While The Nile Project has been successful in fostering open relationships for different representatives from upstream and downstream countries to come together to partake in civil dialogue through music especially, what happens when that dialogue takes place, and the issue of national responsibility overwhelms the notion of transboundary consideration? Will the idea of unity and civility and conflict prevention be enough incentive for upstream countries (such as Ethiopia to halt its dam project that has the potential to generate wealth for both its nation and neighboring countries) to defer national development plans? While these questions were insightfully addressed, they remain as controversial unanswered questions among the eleven countries that share a vital commodity.

Donald Brooks has a masters in international development from Ohio University and he is currently completing a second masters in environmental studies from the same university. 

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of Africa@OHIO or the African Studies Program of Ohio University.