Sunday, March 27, 2011

Egypt seeks food and water security in Sudan

Abdelmoneim Abu Edries Ali in AFP: Egypt will make the completion of a partially-built canal spanning an unnavigable section of the river Nile in south Sudan a top priority, a cabinet spokesman said on Sunday. As Prime Minister Essam Sharaf visited Egypt's soon-to-be partitioned southern neighbour, cabinet spokesman Magdi Radi told a news conference in Khartoum: "We want to start the building of the Jonglei Canal, because it is a top priority. It offers to provide four billion cubic metres of Nile water (annually)."

The 360-kilometre (220-mile) canal project, which would drain the swamps in south Sudan's Jonglei state and carry the water into the White Nile, was begun in 1978 but abandoned just six years later after a raid by southern rebels. Radi was speaking after a joint ministerial meeting on the first day of a two-day visit to Sudan by an Egyptian delegation led by Sharaf, which also includes the foreign, agriculture and irrigation ministers.

It is their first such foreign trip since the new government was appointed by the army after weeks of nationwide protests toppled veteran Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak last month. Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi said his country would be the second, after Sudan, to recognise an independent south, when it splits from the north in July, following January's landmark referendum.

Sudan is an important ally for Egypt both in terms of its agricultural potential and in Cairo's efforts to secure an acceptable agreement with upstream Nile countries about the future of its vital water supplies….

Lucy, a specialized excavator used to dig the Jonglei canal. Construction of the canal ended in 1983 and the digger has remained here since 1983. USAID photo

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