The Cold War Round: Large-Scale National Water Schemes in a Polarized World



The Cold War round in the Nile game refers to the period from early the 1950s to early the 1990s. It starts with the independence of the Nile riparian states one after another and runs under the global rivalry between the Western and Eastern blocks that prevailed until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The map of alignments in the Nile was not static along the round. When Egypt was firmly aligned with the Soviet Union by the late 1950s, Ethiopia was a pro-Western country, while by the mid-1970s both reversed orientations (compare Fig. 4.1 against Fig. 4.2). The Western-Eastern competition was obviously reflected on the development schemes in the Nile Basin. The Soviet Union assisted Egypt to build the Aswan High Dam (AHD) from 1960 to 1971, while the U.S. conducted an extensive survey for Ethiopia on the Blue Nile from 1958 to 1964, and it supported the construction of the Finchaa Dam in the late 1960s. By shifting camps of the Cold War, the Soviets progressed the surveys on Lake Tana in the late 1970s, and Ethiopia proceeded in the 1980s with the construction of the Tana-Beles project, however not completed. The U.S., on the other hand, carried out the maintenance work required for the AHD after its full operation in the 1970s, and Egypt launched the Peace Canal project in 1979 to reclaim lands in the Sinai Peninsula. Concerning Sudan, the bilateral relations with Egypt witnessed serious changes, beginning with tensions until 1958, followed by a period of close alliance based on which the 1959 Agreement was signed and the Roseires Dam was constructed. Yet, by the 1980s, relations between the two countries were disturbed. Moreover, a severe civil war broke out in Southern Sudan with a temporal relief from 1972 to 1983, during which Egypt and Sudan started constructing the Jonglei Canal in 1978, however the project was halted only 5 years later. On the other front upstream the basin, the Equatorial riparian states had been suffering from political instability. At the regional level, the Suez Crisis (or Tripartite Aggression) and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, on the one hand, and the Ethiopian-Eritrean civil war and the Ethiopian-Somali war, on the other, significantly affected the Nile game. Furthermore, the successive environmental crises that took place in the Nile, particularly the 1961–1964 great rains in the Equatorial Lakes, the 1983–1985 famine in Ethiopia, and the 1988 flood in Sudan, played an important role in initiating collaborative programs for information sharing and technical cooperation, such as the Hydromet survey and the Undugu group.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Braunschweig University of TechnologyBraunschweigGermany

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