عنوان مقاله [English]
According to the United Nations, two out of every three people in the world will face “water stress” by 2025. This estimate is based on the premise that the world’s annual population growth (80 million) requires 64 billion cubic meters of more water. Presently, 700 million people in 43 countries of the world are not far from the water stress threshold (1,700 cubic meters per year). As an important economic resource, transboundary water resources are considered to be an influential factor in territorial disputes. Uneven distribution of rainfall and the distance between water resources and catchments and human settlements have also increased concerns in this regard. Territorial disputes over water resources have a long history, and the first war in which water resources have played a significant role is estimated to have occurred 4,500 years ago. Nowadays, 263 transboundary river basins play a vital role in the relations among 151 riparian states. Transboundary water conflicts often occur due to overexploitation of water in the upstream and a decrease in the amount of water flowing to the downstream countries and sometimes a decrease in the water quality due to water pollution in the upstream. Conflicts over the quality of water resources can usually be resolved through the cooperation of the riparian states. Nonetheless, water scarcity and conflicts over the volume of water in these resources are difficult to resolve and many of them are considered to be a threat to the riparian states. This may be in part due to the problems in international laws. Currently the international law lacks decisiveness in the issue of water distribution and one-third of the world’s rivers are subject to local and regional agreements. However, asymmetry of power between riparian states is often the main problem hindering the process of resolving disputes through mutual cooperation. It is often assumed that if the upstream country is stronger than the downstream countries, reaching an agreement will be more difficult. In such a situation, the upstream country sees water as a tool to achieve its goals. However, the avarice of countries like Israel in the downstream of the Jordan River or Egypt in the downstream of the Nile River shows that what is hindering an agreement is not only an “upstream” position, but also a “hydro-hegemonic” position. In other words, a country may be geographically located in the upstream of a river, but this does not necessarily result in its hegemonic dominance over downstream countries since it may be geopolitically weaker or international agreements may not grant dominance to this country. In other words, hydro-hegemonic structure of a region only form when a country can exercise its leadership not only through “compulsion” but also through other material and immaterial sources of political power. According to “Zeytoon” and “Warner”, hydro-hegemony is superiority along a river basin created through the strategy of controlling water resources. This strategy is executed through threatening and pressurizing, signing agreements, and building infrastructure, which due to the weakness of international institutions enable the stronger country to have a larger share in water resources. This implies that infrastructure facilities such as dams not only have physical and economic benefits, but also are considered to be hydro political tools with the potential of changing the structure of hydro-hegemony and hydro-political relations.
The present study uses the above mentioned definition of hydro-hegemony to examine “construction of infrastructure facilities” in Ethiopia (Renaissance Dam), and scrutinize the role of this hydro-political tool in changing the hydro-hegemonic structure of the region. To reach this aim, a descriptive-analytical methodology is used and data collection is performed using library research method.
Findings indicate that with the increase of material power (economic and military power), anti-hegemonic mechanisms applied by Ethiopia in the Nile catchment have also increased. Along with the stability and political-economic development of Ethiopia over the past decade, the Egyptian revolution in January 2011 and subsequent internal instability have served as an opportunity for the implementation of the Ethiopian hydropower projects. It should be noted that having the highest military capacity, economic dominance, and political power in comparison with other low-income countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan, Rwanda, and Tanzania, Egypt has been able to supply its needs from the Nile and deny upstream countries of their rights to build projects which may affect its share of this river for decades. This situation can be described as Egyptian hydro-hegemony. Actually, Ethiopia was unable to take advantage of its geographical position in the upstream of the Nile River and the Horn of Africa due to ongoing conflicts, poverty, and distrust. However, recent changes in foreign policy, increased attention to domestic issues and economic growth have made it possible for this country to solve its domestic issues and use its geographical position.
Findings of the present study indicates that Grid Construction Project can be considered as the beginning of the end of Egyptian hydro-hegemony and power asymmetry in the Nile basin. Some scholars even consider this project as a step towards more equitable shares of the Nile Basin and regional integration. Inspired by a hydro-hegemonic framework in which asymmetric power relations along transboundary rivers are closely examines, these scholars see the Renaissance Dam as a successful case of anti-hegemony resulting in the development of a fair regime in the Nile Basin.