Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The massive new project threatens to leave much of Egypt without water.
Ethiopia is currently building Africa's largest hydroelectric power plant. When it opens next year, the "Great Renaissance Dam" will tap into the Nile River. Unsurprisingly, Egypt, a country whose identity and way of life are tied to that body of water, feels threatened by its neighbor's ambitions.
The new dam will help provide electricity to a country where more than 80 percent live without it. But in Egypt, most of its population is centered near the Nile valley and delta. The former chairman of the National Water Research Center tells Time that the dam will reduce water flow anywhere from 1,300 billion gallons to 6,600 billion gallons per year. It will also increase river pollution, harming fisheries and making it difficult for boats to navigate the river. As Egypt's foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said recently, "no Nile, no Egypt."
Tensions between the two nations over the dam project have been palpable. Egypt president, Mohammed Morsi said in a speech on June 10, "we will defend each drop of the Nile with our blood." During a televised cabinet meeting the week before, several members told the president that "he must destroy the dam through any means available." Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn however said recently that "nothing and no one" will stop construction of the dam.
Politics aside, the Nile does play a defining role in everyday life for Egyptians, whether they be farmers or floating restaurant owners. Below, via Reuters photographer Asmaa Waguih, we get a glimpse of the wide ranging ways Egyptians use their treasured river: