The Fairness ‘Dilemma’ in Sharing the Nile Waters: What Lessons from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam for International Law?

In: Brill Research Perspectives in International Water Law

This monograph enquires into the fairness dilemma in connection with the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (gerd) in light of relevant colonial-era Nile treaties, post-1990 Nile framework instruments, and international watercourses law. The gerd is now a fait accompli, but fairness considerations will continue to be vital issues in its completion, filling, and operation. The monograph argues that the gerd is a symbol of a fair share of the Nile waters by Ethiopia, the realization of which depends on, inter alia, an appropriate economic return, benefit sharing and prevention of significant impacts. The monograph also calls for a process to address the issue of unfair agreements, and argues that, although fairness application can be complex, the notions of procedural fairness and distributive justice can be applied to define and delineate the principle with reference to a specific treaty regime.

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  • 1

    J. V. Sutcliffe & Y. P. ParksThe Hydrology of the Nile (Wallingford: IAHS Press1999) p. 127 retrieved from http://www.hydrosciences.fr/sierem/produits/biblio/hydrology%20of%20the%20Nile.pdf.

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  • 5

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  • 7

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  • 11

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  • 14

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  • 15

    S. Salman‘The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: The Road to the Declaration of Principles and the Khartoum Document,’ Water International Vol. 41(4) (2016) pp. 512–527 p. 512.

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  • 16

    Ibid. p. 523.

  • 18

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  • 20

    Y. Zhang S. Erkyihum & P. Block‘Filling the GERD: Evaluating Hydroclimatic Variability and Impoundment Strategies for Blue Nile Riparian Countries,’ Water International Vol. 41(4) (2016) pp. 593–610 p. 594. These hydrologists predict that filling of the gerd ‘is likely to begin as early as 2018.

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  • 21

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  • 22

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  • 23

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  • 25

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  • 28

    T. FranckFairness in International Law and Institutions (Oxford: Clarendon Press1995).

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  • 30

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  • 31

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  • 32

    Ibid. pp. 8–15. Franck underlined the need for an agreement on ‘a core of reciprocally applicable rules’ (p. 12). ‘Moderate scarcity’ refers to ‘a finite non-renewable’ particularly something in ‘short global supply’ (p. 9). ‘Community’ is ‘a social system of continuing interaction and transaction. It is only in a community that the bedrock of shared values and developed principles necessary to any assessment of fairness is found.’ (pp. 9–10).

  • 33

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  • 34

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  • 35

    J. Tasioulas‘International Law and the Limits of Fairness,’ European Journal of International LawVol. 13(4) (2002) pp. 993–1023; I. Scobbie ‘Tom Franck’s Fairness’ European Journal of International Law Vol. 13(4) (2002) pp. 909–925.

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  • 36

    D. Kritsiotis‘Imagining the International Community,’ European Journal of International LawVol. 13(4) (2002) pp. 961–992 p. 968; D. Shelton ‘Equity’’ in D. Bodansky J. Brunnée & E. Hey (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law pp. 640–661 (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007) pp. 645–649.

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  • 38

    Ibid. p. 260.

  • 39

    Shelton supra note 36 p. 640.

  • 40

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  • 43

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  • 44

    M. Akehurst‘Equity and General Principles of Law,’ International and Comparative Law QuarterlyVol. 25(4) (1976) pp. 801–825 pp. 801–802; O. McIntyre ‘Utilization of Shared International Freshwater Resources: The Meaning and Role of “Equity” in International Water Law’ Water International Vol. 38(2) (2013) pp. 112–129 pp. 114–117.

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  • 45

    R. Jennings‘Equity and Equidistance Principles,’ Annuaire Suisse de Droit InternationalVol. 27 (1986) pp. 31–35 pp. 27 & 31.

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  • 47

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  • 49

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  • 50

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  • 52

    Ibid. p. 164.

  • 54

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  • 55

    R. Wolfrum‘Commentary on Purposes and Principles (Art 1),’ inB. Simma et al. The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary3rd ed.Volume 1 pp. 113–114 (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2012) pp. 113–114; Tunisia/Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Case supra note 49 para. 71; Case Concerning the Gabčikovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary v Slovakia) Judgement of 25 September 1997 [1997] icj Reports 7 para. 147; Z. Yihdego & A. Rieu-Clarke ‘An Exploration of Fairness in International Law Through the Blue Nile and GERD’ Water International Vol. 41(4) (2016) pp. 528–549.

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  • 61

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  • 62

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  • 63

    Ibid. pp. 56–75; Lowe I note 48 pp. 54–58; O. McIntyre Environmental Protection of International Watercourses under International Law (Aldershot: Ashgate 2007) p. 120.

  • 64

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  • 66

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  • 71

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  • 73

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  • 74

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  • 76

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  • 78

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  • 84

    McCaffrey supra note 73 pp. 464–481.

  • 88

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  • 92

    S. Salman‘The Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement: A Peacefully Unfolding African Spring?,’ Water InternationalVol. 38(1) (2013) pp. 17–29 pp. 19–20.

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  • 107

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  • 114

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  • 115

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  • 116

    Z. Yihdego‘Arms Control and Human Security: What Role for NSAs?,’ inC. Ryngaert & M. Noortmann Human Security and International Law: The Challenge of Non-State Actors pp. 135–174 (Cambridge: Intersentia 2014).

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  • 117

    Salman supra note 92 pp. 17–29.

  • 119

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  • 120

    Salman supra note 92 p. 21.

  • 121

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  • 124

    M. A. Shetewy‘Legal Commitments Regulating the Establishment of Water Projects on International Rivers Application Study over the Nile Basin,’ African PerspectivesVol. 11(39) (2013) pp. 29–35.

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  • 125

    Ibid. pp. 34–35.

  • 126

    McCaffrey supra note 73 p. 266.

  • 127

    M. Shaw‘The Heritage of States: The Principle of uti possidetis juris Today,’ British Yearbook of International LawVol. 67(1) (1996) pp. 75–154 pp. 97 & 104.

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  • 128

    T. W. WoldetsadikInternational Watercourses Law in the Nile River Basin: Three States at a Crossroads (Abingdon: Routledge2013) p. 100; A. H. Garretson ‘The Nile Basin’ in A. H. Garretson R. D. Hayton & C. J. Olmstead (eds.) The Law of International Drainage Basins pp. 256–297 (New York: Oceana 1967) p. 277.

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  • 129

    Shawsupra note 127 p. 77.

  • 133

    Ibid. p. 136 para. 10.

  • 134

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  • 135

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  • 138

    Egyptian Perspectivesupra note 5.

  • 140

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  • 141

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  • 142

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  • 145

    Tvedt supra note 142 pp. 10–11.

  • 147

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  • 149

    Ibid. p. 55 (footnotes omitted). The ilc did also clarify that ‘[b]y excepting treaties establishing a boundary from its [Article 62] scope the present article would not exclude the operation of the principle of self-determination in any case where the conditions for its legitimate operation existed’ (ibid p. 58).

  • 151

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  • 154

    McCaffrey supra note 73 p. 270.

  • 155

    Franck supra note 28 p. 13.

  • 156

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  • 158

    A. Abulwafa‘Commitment of International Conventions on the River Nile,’ African PerspectivesVol. 11(39) (2013) pp. 7–13.

  • 159

    M. C. R. Craven‘The Problem of State Succession and the Identity of States under International Law,’ European Journal of International LawVol. 9 (1998) pp. 142–162 p. 147.

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  • 161

    T. MaluwaInternational Law in Post-Colonial Africa (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff1999) p. 69; C. Leb & M. Tignino ‘State Succession to Water Treaties: Uncertainties and Extremes’ in L. B. Boisson de Chazournes C. Leb & M. Tignino (eds.) International Law and Freshwater: The Multiple Challenges pp. 421–444 (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar 2013) p. 425.

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  • 162

    McCaffrey supra note 73 p. 270.

  • 163

    As quoted in Mekonnen supra note 115 p. 434.

  • 164

    Degefu supra note 151 p. 99.

  • 165

    McCaffrey supra note 73 p. 269.

  • 166

    Salmansupra note 92.

  • 167

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  • 168

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  • 169

    A. Boyle & C. ChinkinThe Making of International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press2009) pp. 28–29.

  • 171

    A. H. Garretson‘The Nile River System,’ Proceedings of the American Society of International LawVol. 54 (1960) pp. 136–163 p. 143.

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  • 175

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  • 181

    J. Brunnée & S. J. Toope‘The Changing Nile Basin Regime: Does Law Matter?,’ Harvard International Law JournalVol. 43(1) (2002) pp. 105–159 pp. 108–109.

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  • 182

    Ibid. p. 110.

  • 184

    M. Abdo‘The Nile Question: The Accords on the Water of the Nile and Their Implications on Cooperative Schemes in the Basin,’ Perceptions–Journal of International AffairsVol. 9(2) (Summer 2004) pp. 45–57 retrieved from http://sam.gov.tr/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/4.-Mohammed-Abdo.pdf.

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  • 185

    Ibid. p. 51.

  • 186

    Shetewysupra note 124 p. 35.

  • 193

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  • 196

    D. B. HollisThe Oxford Guide to Treaties Edited by Bibliographic Information (Oxford: Oxford University Press2012) p. 32.

  • 197

    K. Hossain‘The Environmental Law-Making Process,’ inS. Alam et al Routledge Handbook of International Environmental Law pp. 61–76 (Abingdon: Routledge 2013) p. 70. Arguably however the ‘adoption application modification interpretation and termination of treaties are in principle applicable to framework agreements and their protocols’ as per N. Matz-Lück ‘Framework Conventions as a Regulatory Tool’ Goettingen Journal of International Law Vol. 1(3) (2009) pp. 439–458 p. 442. It ought to be noted that the author appears to use the phrase ‘framework convention’ as synonymous to a ‘framework agreement.’

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  • 198

    G. Ulfstein‘Reweaving the Fabric of International Law? Patters of Consent in Environmental Framework Agreements,’ inR. Wolfrum & V. Roben (eds.) Developments of International Law in Treaty Making pp. 145–154 (Heidelberg: Springer 2005) pp. 145–148.

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  • 199

    Boyle & Chinkin supra note 169 pp. 211–214; G. J. H. Van Hoof Rethinking the Sources of International Law (Berlin: Kluwer 1983) pp. 187–189.

  • 207

    S. Salman‘Dams, International Rivers, and Riparian States: An Analysis of the Recommendations of the World Commission on Dams,’ American University International Law ReviewVol. 16(6) (2001) pp. 1477–1505. See pp. 1487–1503. For further discussion on human health and safety issues in the context of the primacy of the rule of significant harm see Dellapenna supra note 76 p. 283.

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  • 210

    McCaffrey supra note 73 p. 511.

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    J. A. Allan & N. Mirumachi‘Why Negotiate? Asymmetric Endowments, Asymmetric Power and the Invisible Nexus of Water, Trade and Power That Bring Apparent Water Security,’ inA. Earle A. Jägerskog & J. Őjendal Transboundary Water Management: Principles and Practice pp. 13–26 (London: Earthscan 2010) p. 22.

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  • 214

    DoPssupra note 12.

  • 216

    Hollis supra note 196 p. 20.

  • 226

    A. Aman‘Egypt Warily Signs Preliminary Nile Agreement,’ Al-monitor (31 March 2015) retrieved from http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/egypt-eastern-nile-water-agreement-ethiopia-sudan.html#.

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    Waldoc Sir H.‘First Report on the Law of Treaties,’ inYearbook of the International Law Commission 1962 Vol. II pp. 27–80 (New York: United Nations 1964) p. 32 retrieved from http://legal.un.org/ilc/publications/yearbooks/english/ilc_1962_v2.pdf.

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  • 235

    J. Klabbers‘Beyond the Vienna Convention: Conflicting Treaty Provisions,’ inE. Cannizzaro (ed.) The Law of Treaties Beyond the Vienna Convention pp. 192–205 (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011) p. 197.

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  • 236

    See‘Ethiopia Won’t Stop Construction of the Renaissance Dam: Minister,’ Sudan Tribune (13 February 2016) retrieved from http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article57997.

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  • 238

    Salman supra note 15 p. 524.

  • 242

    Salman supra note 15 p. 524.

  • 245

    Shetewy supra note 124 p. 35.

  • 247

    P. WoutersInternational Water Law: Selected Writings of Professor Charles B. Bourne (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff1997) p. 182. The icj in the Pulp Mills case (supra note 46) states that ‘the obligation to inform CARU [Adminstrative Commission of the River Uruguay a body established by a treaty] allows for the initiation of co-operation between the Parties which is necessary in order to fulfil the obligation of prevention’ (para. 102).

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  • 249

    Salman supra note 92 p. 22.

  • 253

    N. Wahish‘Toshka Turns Millennial Green,’ Al-Ahram Weekly On-lineIssue No. 392 (27 August–2 September 1998) retrieved from http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/archive/1998/392/ec1.htm.

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    Woldetsadik supra note 128 pp. 44–45; A. E. Cascão ‘Changing Power Relations in the Nile River Basin: Unilateralism vs. Cooperation?’ Water Alternatives Vol. 2(2) (2009) pp. 245–268 p. 249.

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    A. Rieu-Clarke‘Notification and Consultation on Planned Measures Concerning International Watercourses: Learning from the Pulp Mills and Kishenganga Cases,’ Yearbook of International Environmental LawVol. 24(1) (2014) pp. 102–130.

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  • 257

    H. LauterpachtThe Function of Law in the International Community (Oxford: Oxford University Press2011) pp. 306–307.

  • 258

    Wouterssupra note 247 p. 76.

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    C. Gray‘The Use of Force and the International Legal Order,’ inM. D. Evans (ed.) International Law3rd ed. pp. 615–647 (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2010) pp. 618–619.

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  • 266

    N. Ali‘Ethiopia Accuses Egypt of Destabilizing the Country by Supporting Rebels,’ Middle East Observer (11 October 2016).

  • 267

    See‘Egypt’s Sisi denies supporting opposition in Ethiopia,’ Reuters (13 October 2016).

  • 270

    See World Commission on DamsDams and Development—A New Framework for Decision-making (London: Earthscan2000) p. 167.

  • 271

    IPoE Report supra note 237 pp. 14–39.

  • 273

    Ibid. p. 34.

  • 274

    Ibid. p. 29.

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    Y. Tadele‘EEPCo, Chinese Company Ink Billion Dollar Transmission Line Deal,’ FortuneVol. 13(678) (28 April 2013).

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    A. E. Cascão & A. Nicol‘GERD: New Norms of Cooperation in the Nile Basin?,’ Water InternationalVol. 41(4) (2016) pp. 559–560.

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  • 281

    IPoE Report supra note 237 p. 1.

  • 284

    See‘Egypt Forced to Negotiate on Nile Dam,’ Stratfor (20 March 2015) retrieved from https://www.stratfor.com/sample/analysis/egypt-forced-negotiate-nile-dam; H. Verhoeven ‘Africa’s Next Hegemon: Behind Ethiopia’s Power Plays’ Foreign Affairs (12 April 2015) retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/ethiopia/2015-04-12/africas-next-hegemon; S. Farid ‘Will Egypt Still Get Its Fair Share of Nile Water?.’ Al Arabiya News (31 March 2015) retrieved from http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/analysis/2015/03/31/Will-Egypt-still-get-its-fair-share-of-Nile-water-.html.

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  • 286

    A. Aman‘In Switch, Egypt May Join Ethiopia in Nile Dam Project,’ Al-monitor (21 October 2013) retrieved from http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/10/egypt-ethiopia-dam-reconciliation.html#ixzz4UK9hCjUq.

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    R. Tawfik‘The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: A Benefit-sharing Project in the Eastern Nile?,’ Water InternationalVol. 41(4) (2016) pp. 574–592.

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  • 292

    Ibid. pp. 39–40; see also Pulp Mills supra note 46 paras. 203–219.

  • 296

    World Commission of Dams supra note 270 p. 267.

  • 301

    Whittington et al supra note 262 pp. 596 600; mit Report supra note 10.

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    Franck supra note 28 p. 56.

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    See‘Al-Sisi Criticised for Waiving Egypt’s Right Over Nile Water,’ Middle Eastern Monitor (23 March 2015) retrieved from https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17657.

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  • 305

    See H. Afifi‘Egyptian Experts Divided Over Renaissance Dam Declaration of Principles,’ Ahramonline (24 March 2015) retrieved from http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/126005.aspx.

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  • 309

    See‘A Dam Nuisance: Egypt and Ethiopia Quarrel Over Water,’ The Economist (20 April 2011) retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node/18587195.

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    A. Maasho‘INSIGHT-Paying for Giant Nile Dam Itself, Ethiopia Thwarts Egypt but Takes Risks,’ Reuters (23 April 2014) retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/ethiopia-energy-idUSL6N0N91QM20140423#0yFaPZTMs1UPhfBG.97.

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  • 311

    Woldetsadik supra note 128 p. 41.

  • 315

    Ibid. p. 6.

  • 316

    Ibid. p. 4.

  • 317

    Ibid. p. 5.

  • 321

    Zhang et al supra note 20 pp. 593–610.

  • 322

    Wheeler et al supra 295 p. 630.

  • 324

    Zhang et al supra note 20 p. 608.

  • 326

    Ibid. pp. 600–601.

  • 327

    Wheeler et alsupra note 295 pp. 611–634.

  • 328

    Ibid. pp. 630–631. Clarification added.

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    ‘See‘Egypt Stresses Nile Water Rights in Ethiopia Dam Project,’ Daily Mail (25 March 2015) retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-3011635/Egypt-stresses-Nile-water-rights-Ethiopia-dam-project.html.

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  • 335

    H. I. Abdel-Shafy & R. O. Aly‘Water Issue in Egypt: Resources, Pollution and Protection Endeavours,’ Central European Journal of Occupational and Environmental MedicineVol. 8(1) (2002) pp. 3–21 retrieved from http://www.omfi.hu/cejoem/Volume8/Vol8No1/CE02_1-01.html; G. G. E. Eckstein Hydrologic Reality: International Water Law and Transboundary Ground-Water Resources paper and lecture for the conference on ‘Water: Dispute Prevention and Development’ (American University Centre for the Global South Washington D.C. 12–13 October 1998).

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  • 338

    S. Salman‘How and Why Has the Ethiopian Strategy on the Renaissance Dam Succeeded?,’ Sudan Vision (25 May 2015) retrieved from http://news.sudanvisiondaily.com/details.html?rsnpid=248051.

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  • 346

    Franck supra note 28 p. 13.

  • 347

    C. W. Sadoff & D. Grey‘Beyond the River: The Benefits of Cooperation on International Rivers,’ Water PolicyVol. 4 (2002) pp. 389–403.

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  • 350

    See e.g. Aal supra note 156 pp. 28–29.

  • 352

    Francksupra note 28 p. 7.

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