Report from the Ministry of Water Resources

October 6, 1999

Ethiopia, with an area of 1.08 million square kilometers, has twelve river basins with a mean annual flow of roughly 120.22 billion cubic meters of water. Although the country is known as the water tower of Africa, the availability of water and the water resources potential in the eastern and western parts of the country is markedly different.

The underdevelopment of Ethiopia's water resources is demonstrated by the under utilization of the country's irrigable land (which is estimated to be about 3.35 million hectares of which only about 4.8 percent has been developed) and its hydropower potential (which is estimated at 60 billion kwhr/year of which only 410 mw is developed to date). The demand for hydropower is increasing at about 12 percent per annum. In order to accelerate the development of the country's water resources, a number of coordinated and integrated activities need to be carried out at both the federal and regional levels.

The Three Major Achievements of the Ministry of Water Resources in 1998-99

1. Cooperation through the Nile Basin Initiative

During the past 30 years, a common position was sought among the riparian states concerning cooperation and development through the equitable utilization of the Nile River water. Until the recent creation of a cooperative mechanism, however, those efforts were characterized by setbacks. Ethiopia played a significant role in the development of the mechanism, known as the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), which is based on the interests of all riparian states. In 1998, the Council of Ministers of Water Affairs for the Nile Basin Countries (Nile-COM) established a new, transitional institutional mechanism that involves all riparian countries. This mechanism has brought about much closer cooperation for the further development of common programs.

The Addis Ababa Meeting

The 1999 Nile-COM meeting, held in Addis Ababa, was a major milestone in the history of Nile Basin cooperation. It was the first time that all Nile Basin Countries (with the exception of Eritrea) participated in the COM meeting. Under the chairmanship of Ethiopia, the meeting endorsed the new transitional institutional arrangement, which is known as the Nile Basin Initiative. NBI is comprised of the following:

The Addis Ababa meeting has led the Nile Basin states into a new chapter, moving from mere dialogue to planning and action. Accordingly, the following significant steps have been taken:

Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program (ENSAP)

In May 1999, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan agreed to establish a joint technical team known as the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program Team (ENSAPT). The team is creating a strategic document to be used as a guiding principle for initiating and moving forward the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program.

2. Policy Formulation

In 1998-99, one of the major tasks of the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) was the formulation of a comprehensive and integrated water resources management policy. The major goal of the policy is to enhance and promote all national efforts that seek to efficiently and optimally use the available water resources for sustainable socioeconomic development. The water resources policy underpins various national efforts, including the:

Objectives of the Water Resources Policy:

Policy Principles

The following are the fundamental policy principles that guide the sustainable and efficient management of water resources in Ethiopia:

Various water projects are being carried out throughout the country. While the regional governments' projects are mainly water supply and irrigation projects, those conducted by the MoWR focus on integrated basin development studies, hydropower, water supply, irrigation meteorology and capacity building.

The Ministry of Water Resources' Three Major Activities for 1999-2000

To Strengthen Cooperation through the Nile Basin Initiative

Water Sector Development Program

Once the policy has been approved by the council of ministers, implementation strategy and sector development programs must be prepared. The main objective of developing the strategy is to formulate coherent and efficient plans for the management of the water resources of Ethiopia in line with the adopted water resources management policy. The sector development program preparation will focus first on supporting the realization of food self-sufficiency and food security in the country. The second aim is to improve the living standard and general socioeconomic wellbeing of the Ethiopian people, and the third aim is to enhance the contribution of water resources in attaining national development objectives.

3. Project Activities

As in 1998-99, in 1999-2000, the ministry will engage in irrigation, valley development related, water supply related and meteorology related projects. The projects will be executed in close cooperation with national regional governments.

Issued by the FDRE Office of Government Spokesperson on 06/10/99