Mareeg Media 23 March 2016
Ethiopia has started using all the water resources of the rivers. The Ethiopian master plans of the Wabi Shabelle and Genale – Dawa river basins reveal that major increase of water use for agricultural and energy productions in Ethiopia demand large scale mobilisation of the available water resources in the rivers.
The large dams and irrigation schemes have the capacities to utilise all available water resources in the two rivers, leaving no water for existing and future downstream uses in Somalia. Taking advantage of its hydro-hegemony, the Ethiopia’s hydro-strategy makes sharing water more difficult. The dams produce not only hydroelectricity but also reliable, year – round water storages, which the country can divert forirrigation.
The Ethiopian hydropower development plans on the rivers create opportunities to earn foreign currency by selling hydropower energy to neighbouring countries, particularly to Kenya. Obtaining up to 400 MW annually, Kenya has welcomed the power purchase agreement with Ethiopia .
The water released from the dams are used for irrigation scheme in the lower reaches of the Genale River in Ethiopia, Somalia will then be affected negatively. In that case, Kenya is benefiting from the Genale system, in which they are not part of. Somalia is then neither getting the hydropower nor water for its existing and future irrigation needs.
From a transboundray perspective, these dams have another advantage for Ethiopia. The main purpose is regulating the river flows for hydropower generation, downstream irrigation and flood control. This increases not only the water utilisation of the rivers in Ethiopia but it will also strengthen the country’s position in the basins for future negotiation over the sharing of its benefits.
At time of Ethiopia’s proposed water projects, Somalia has not been notified  and Ethiopia argues that there is no Somali government to notify and cooperate with . In contrary to that argument, Ethiopian troops went into Somalia in 2006 with an agreement with the then transitional government. Notification is seen in Ethiopia as an obstacle to proceed with planned developments. As unilateral water developments have usually been predominant before negotiations , it is certain that Ethiopia decided with the idea of “build before any talks”.
Most scenarios for water use and allocation modelling by Ethiopia shows large scale irrigation schemes [24b] with significant impacts on existing and planned downstream uses in Somalia. As a result of these large scale proposed irrigation plans in Ethiopia, Somali will be entirely transformed into rain-fed agriculture  and the Somalia government is very much concerned about the Ethiopian plans. In contrary to that, Ethiopia feels that it is being a hostage of Somalia’s lack of central and functional government . The two countries are in a position negatively affecting each other’s desperately needed development of the two rivers’ water resources. As long as Somalia is in a deep political crisis with no central and effective government, it will be difficult to argue with Ethiopia about their planned water development projects on the rivers.
Ethiopian policies, water projects and effected on downstream Somalia
The country has also decided to base all its energy production on hydropower, requiring large dam buildings on Ethiopia’s major rivers. These dam developments will adversely impact on downstream uses in Somalia. Since irrigation is a major consumptive user of water, the Ethiopian irrigation plans in the very dry areas in the middle reaches of the river basins will demand large amount of water. This cause not only significant reduction of water flow to Somalia but also dries up the entire river flows.
The effect of these policies will be that they will increase the fears that Somalia has in these shared rivers, as Ethiopia can theoretically divert and control the water resources in the Jubba and Shabelle rivers. Diversion of river water for major consump tive uses such as irrigation in upstream areas of the basins will cause two major adverse impacts on Somalia:
1. Economic effect: reduction of water flows in the rivers will cause a collapse of existing irrigation schemes and planned irrigation developments.
2.Ecological effect: the entire rivers’ ecology, particularly wetland areas in the Shabelle depression areas and the Juba estuary at the mouth of the river causing seawater intrusions. Planned irrigation and industrial developments in upstream will cause negative effects on the water quality in downstream areas of the rivers.
These major adverse impacts on the rivers’ downstream uses in Somalia will be pronounced in low flow periods. The rivers are already experiencing flow reduction due to the basins’ high evaporation, seepage and over bank spillages . In addition, as a result of the Ethiopia’s proposed upstream developments, the Juba and Shabelle rivers will experience further four more major losses:
1.Consumptive uses for irrigation schemes.
2.Evaporation losses from the large reservoir areas.
3.Flow reduction during impoundment of reservoirs after the completion of the dams.
4.Changes in flow regime over time.
Considering large reservoir areas with an annual evaporation rates exceeding 1500 mm, an irrigated areas of only 200000 hectares in upstream Ethiopia consuming large amount of water, and natural seepage and other losses, the flow of the Juba and Shabelle rivers in Somalia could be drastically reduced. In both river basins, Ethiopia warns that their planned schemes will affect Somalia mainly during low flow period.
Due to the absence of an international agreement on these shared rivers, Ethiopia argues that it has the sovereign right to proceed unilaterally with its development of water resources within its territory without considering effects on downstream uses in Somali.