Many hands make light work: improving transboundary water management in the Tekezze-Atbara sub-basin

Written by Kimberly Wakkary, on 13 July 2018

The Tekezze-Atbara tributary of the Nile is perhaps lesser known than the more famous Blue Nile and White Nile. Yet, millions of people call the Tekezze-Atbara basin their home and depend on its waters. Unfortunately, the way the waters are managed now is not sustainable, seeing as countries in the region are already suffering from water scarcity. With millions of people depending on the Tekezze-Atbara tributary, it is therefore crucial to manage this essential and scarce resource in a sustainable manner.

Collaborate for optimal utilisation

The project “river basin simulation for improved transboundary water management in the Nile: a case study of the Tekezze-Atbara”, also known as Tekezze-Atbara, is led by the Hydraulic Research Center Sudan (HRC). 

The Tekezze-Atbara sub-basin is shared by three countries: Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. Within the sub-basin, three dams, the Girba and Atbara Dams Complex in Sudan, and the Tekezze Five in Ethiopia are operating independently from each other. The Tekezze Atbara project aims to facilitate the collaboration of these dams with each other to ensure optimal utilisation of the limited water resources.

Ms. Hana Altom, a civil engineer and assistant researcher at the Hydraulics Research Center says: “there is a lack of coordination, but the basin has the potential to carry out such effective cooperation between Ethiopia and Sudan. This coordination leads to more benefits for both countries”. A river basin simulation model will be built by researchers from both countries and will be the main tool to analyze the demands of irrigation, hydropower and environmental flow. “The outcomes of the project will hopefully enable these two countries to work on a more coordinated approach to boundary water management in the basin. Hopefully, it will also lead to future collaboration and similar research,” Ms. Altom adds.

A stepping stone for more collaboration

The project is the first in attempting such cooperation in transboundary water management between Sudan and Ethiopia, but will hopefully function as a stepping stone to further collaboration. Ms Altom: “There was no real understanding within the governments of the actual benefits collaboration could bring. Now we are also trying to involve the respective ministries of the two countries in the project activities. They are very keen on knowing what we are doing, and really support the project. I hope they also factor this into their decision making and really make such cooperation happen”.

Under the project, a short documentary was produced to give more insight on the Tekezze-Atbara sub-basin, which focusses on the basin’s history, the people who are attached to the surrounding land, natural resources and highlight opportunities of cooperation. See on the right to watch the documentary and visit the project website here.

This story was written in collaboration with the team of the Tekezze-Atbara project.


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