62. East of the River Nile
Written & performed by Augustus Pablo
From the album East of The River Nile (Message, Jamaica 1978)



From the sleeve of the album East of the River Nile, the following verses from The Book of Psalms, Chapter 150:

1. Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

2. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.

3. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

4. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

5. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

6. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

Multi instrumentalist Horace Swaby recorded at least three versions of this instrumental and dub composition between 1972 and 1978 under his recording, producing, and performing name, Augustus Pablo. The latter two versions share the distinction of being mixed by dub pioneers Lee Perry and Osbourne ‘King Tubby’ Ruddock. In each of these successive versions the sound picture grows wider, as though the river itself is contracting and expanding, its borders dissolving…


‘Summary Fact File about the Nile River. Length: (From White Nile Source to Mouth) 6695km (4184 miles). Name: The Nile gets its name from the Greek word ‘Nelios’, meaning River Valley. Sources: The White Nile: Lake Victoria, Uganda. The Blue Nile: Lake Tana, Ethiopia. Countries: The Nile and its tributaries flow though nine countries. The White Nile flows though Uganda, Sudan, and Egypt. The Blue Nile starts in Ethiopia. Zaire, Kenya, Tanzanian, Rwanda, and Burundi all have tributaries, which flow into the Nile or into lake Victoria Nyanes. Cities: The major cities that are located on the edge of the Nile and White Nile are: Cairo, Gondokoro, Khartoum, Aswan, Thebes/Luxor, Karnak, and the town of Alexandria lies near the Rozeta branch. Major Dams: The major dams on the Nile are Roseires Dam, Sennar Dam, Aswan High Dam, and Owen Falls Dam. Flow Rate: The Nile River’s average discharge is about 300 million cubic metres per day.


There are ten countries which make up the Nile River Basin. Some of the countries have only a small part of their area within the basin, whilst others are virtually entirely within the Basin. All the countries contribute differently to the basin and have different needs for the water and other resources of the basin.’

- ensap.nilebasin.org


‘Looking out across the vastness of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, it is difficult to see why Ethiopia is known as a land plagued by horrific droughts. Lake Tana is 112km (70 miles) wide and fed by more than 40 tributaries.

From its origin here in the Ethiopian Highlands, the Blue Nile flows hundreds of miles north into Sudan and then Egypt before eventually flowing into the Mediterranean. Yet despite this apparent abundance of water about 2.5 million farmers, in this region of Ethiopia alone, depend on food aid to survive.

The Ethiopian government says this state of affairs continues because it has not been able to meaningfully exploit the massive natural resource which passes largely untapped through its territory.

This means the agriculture on which so much of the population depends is at the mercy of seasonal rains which are becoming increasingly erratic. But Ethiopia’s new determination to utilise the Blue Nile to lift itself out of poverty is likely to put it on a collision course with the country which currently makes most use of the water downstream – Egypt.


The further east you drive from Lake Tana the drier it gets. Once into the hills, green makes way for dull yellows and browns further neutered by clouds of dust. Near the village of Zaha small children shepherd a collection of scrawny cows and goats towards a field of lifeless stubble. A group of men, clad in traditional headscarves and cloaks, crouch in the shade listlessly, flicking away the flies.

The meagre crops in the fields provide little evidence that this is harvest time. But within view of the parched fields a large tributary of the Nile sweeps past unconcerned. Mengistu, a farmer, says that those in his village are finding it increasingly difficult to eke out even a basic livelihood. ‘The main problem here is that we don’t get enough rain. In fact, this is the source of all our problems,’ he says. ‘Over the last four years our rains have not come as usual. Both the long and short rains have failed. Last May we got no proper rains. Yet this month is supposed to mark the start of the wet season. So we haven’t been able to grow our crops. Even when the rains do come they don’t last long. If the rains come too late or too early we are just planting in vain. We’ve had to rely on food aid. We’ve got nothing to eat.’
Desert miracle

Many hundreds of miles downstream the very waters that passed by Ethiopia’s drought-ravaged fields are used to grow fruit and vegetables in the heart of the Sinai desert. A massive irrigation system spawns thousands of acres of fruit and vegetables at the Al-Hoda farm, one of Africa’s largest organic farms. Most of the crops are bound for supermarkets in Britain and other European countries.

Any suggestion that this miracle in the desert comes at the expense of drought-plagued countries upstream gets an angry response. The owner of the Al-Hoda Farm, Osama Kher Eldin, argues that Egypt has little or no rain and it could not survive if other nations began plundering the Nile’s waters. ‘If one wants to kill your kids, what you going to do? It means death for Egyptian people. We have no other sources. Only the Nile. So it is something untouchable,’ he says.

Egypt has not stopped at creating organic farms in the desert. It is also been using the Nile to grow whole new towns there. In 1987 the land where Noubarya now stands was nothing but desert shrubs, but now it is a thriving urban oasis.

But even that is minor in comparison with the Egyptian government’s latest major scheme, the Toshka Project, which uses the great river to irrigate a whole desert region. Given the continent’s acute shortage of water can all this be justified just to grow crops in the desert? Dia El Quosy, senior adviser to the Egyptian government’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, says his country must act in this way. ‘It’s not only the production of food. It’s also about the generation of employment. Some 40% of our manpower are farmers and if these people are not given opportunities and jobs they will immediately move to the cities and you can see how crowded Cairo is already.’


Egypt’s population has more than doubled since the 1960s. But Ethiopia is also facing similar demographic pressures. And Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi says the current division of water use along the river is anything but fair. ‘While Egypt is taking the Nile water to transform the Sahara Desert into something green, we in Ethiopia – who are the source of 85% of that water – are denied the possibility of using it to feed ourselves. And we are being forced to beg for food every year,’ he says.

Mr Meles says he is becoming increasingly angry at Egypt’s long running objections to requests from other Nile basin nations to use the river’s waters for major irrigation projects.

And he warns that his government, along with those of Kenya, Uganda Tanzania – who share the White Nile with Egypt – will no longer be intimidated by past threats, principally by the late President Anwar Sadat, to use force to maintain its grip on the Nile. ‘I think it is an open secret that the Egyptians have troops that are specialised in jungle warfare. Egypt is not known for its jungles. So if these troops are trained in jungle warfare, they are probably trained to fight in the jungles of the East African countries,’ Mr Meles says. ‘And from time to time Egyptian presidents have threatened countries with military action if they move. While I cannot completely discount the sabre-rattling I do not think it is a feasible option. If Egypt were to plan to stop Ethiopia from utilising the Nile waters it would have to occupy Ethiopia and no country on earth has done that in the past.’

But one thing that does prevent Ethiopia from exploiting the Nile waters is a lack of money. Mr Meles blames this on Egypt’s long-term opposition to any international funding of large scale irrigation projects on the Nile.

This allegation is denied by the Egyptian government which also insists that it is fully committed to implementing any agreement reached in current talks with its neighbours along the Nile. However, the United Nation’s World Food Programme says that with nine million Ethiopians in need of food aid and rains in the country becoming ever more unreliable, the talking should not go on too long.

Meles Zenawi, believes that the time for talking may already be over. ‘The current regime cannot be sustained. It’s being sustained because of the diplomatic clout of Egypt. Now, there will come a time when the people of East Africa and Ethiopia will become too desperate to care about these diplomatic niceties. Then, they are going to act.’

- ‘Nile restrictions anger Ethiopia’, by Mike Thomson, BBC News, 2005/02/03 news.bbc.co.uk


‘Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak’s brief stopover for lunch in July in Kampala may have been less poignant had it not put everything to do with River Nile into perspective, for it triggered a bitter diplomatic row between east African neighbours, Tanzania and Uganda, over exploitation of its precious waters.

The East African newspaper reported this week that the spat was simmered by three previous unannounced visits to Cairo by a Ugandan water ministry official to negotiate a ’secret deal’ for Egypt to draw more of the Nile waters in contravention of existing multilateral agreements.

Dar es Salaam then demanded to see a copy of the political arrangement between Uganda, which shares Lake Victoria – which feeds the Nile – with Kenya and Tanzania, and Egypt whose economy is largely dependent on waters of the River Nile that drains into the Mediterranean.

Mubarak had made the stopover in Uganda on his way from South Africa where he had gone to rally support for Sudanese president Hassan Omar El Bashir against his likely indictment for genocide crimes in Darfur by The Hague based International Criminal Court. It is said he used this time to seal the deal with president Yoweri Museveni over a sumptuous lunch before flying back to Cairo.

But Tanzanian authorities were so piqued by the secretive deal over the Nile that Ugandan officials who had travelled to Dar es Salaam in attempts to ease the tension received a cold reception there and were snubbed by president Jakaya Kikwete himself.

It is a water war that is threatening the establishment of a permanent Nile Basin Commission that will see the regional neighbours drawing up an equitable sharing mechanism including security of water for all the riparian neighbours.

Lake Victoria is also threatened by depleting water levels, a cause for concern for scientists and the regional governments. Uganda has faced past accusations of overdrawing waters of the lake – the world’s second largest fresh water body – into the Nile by diverting the waters to run its hydro-electric plants in Jinja.

But Museveni has rejected the suggestions blaming the phenomenon of depleting Lake Victoria waters on increased global warming instead.’

- ‘Water War: East African Nations Squabble over River Nile as Egypt Exploits Politics to Draw More Water’, by Sam Aola Ooko, September 5th, 2008, Tanzania., via ecoworldly.com


‘SCIENCE FOCUS: ETHIOPIA, RED SEA, AND NILE RIVER: Many of the previous Science Focus articles have discussed a particular phenomenon that is visible in SeaWiFS data and imagery. In this case, however, SeaWiFS has provided superb views of a distant region of the world that has many unique geological and physical features. Furthermore, this region of Africa has both archaeological and anthropological significance. Hominid fossils found here indicate that this region may be the origin of humanity’s presence on Earth, and the Nile River valley and delta are the home of numerous archaeological sites from the time of the Pharaohs.

[…] Some anthropologists speculate that one reason the East Rift Valley was where human beings originated was the ongoing geological rifting process in the area. They believe that this process led to considerable ecological stress and disruption, a situation that favours rapid evolution and even the development of intelligence.

The distribution of fossils in various parts of the Rift Valley makes this theory difficult to confirm, as the global climate was also undergoing fairly rapid climate change. The climate in this African region was clearly becoming cooler and drier, leading to changes in vegetation cover from forests to grasslands and expansion of deserts.

One of the primary changes that may have occurred in the early hominids was the development of the ability to walk, perhaps due to the loss of forest cover and the expansion of grasslands. At Laetoli in northern Tanzania footprints in hardened volcanic ash, presumably made by australopithecines, were discovered [...]’

- ScienceFocus via daac.gsfc.nasa.gov


‘Looks can be deceiving. The picturesque Nile River, the life of Egypt is becoming a serious hazard to people. Its water is containing a chemical stew of heavy metals, dioxins, PCBs, DDT and other pesticides, untreated human and animal waste and disease carrying bacteria.

Some came from local industry and farm runoff, some came from industry upstream and some came from all the untreated waste from villages, towns and cities near its banks. Some of the pollutants exceed allowable levels; some don’t. For many chemicals, safe, permissible levels for exposure is not known yet.

In an effort to grow more food and better quality food, to substitute for the rich silt that has been lost after Aswan High Dam, the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides have increased dramatically. Extensive use of pesticides derived from chlorinated hydrocarbons, like DDT, to combat insects, like Cotton worms, has had disastrous effects on the environment. These organic compounds with halogens (Fluorine or chlorine or bromine) in their molecular structures are highly persistent and resist bio-degradation for decades. They are not easily soluble in water, they tend to cling to plant tissues and accumulate in soils, the bottom mud of streams and ponds. They are easily dispersed in the atmosphere. Carried by wind, especially from aerial spraying which has been going on for the past twenty years, the pesticides are distributed, contaminating people, animals and everything even in areas far removed from agricultural regions. They enter the food chain in the plants that the plant eaters and we consume. They can be also absorbed directly through the skin by such aquatic organisms as fish. The pesticide is further concentrated as it passes from plant eating species to predators. It becomes highly concentrated in the tissues of animals at the end of the food chain.

Because of the dangers of pesticides to wildlife and to humans, and because insects have acquired resistance to them, the use of halogenated hydrocarbons such as DDT has been banned in the developed countries like USA & Canada and most of western Europe, although large quantities are still shipped to developing countries. In the early 1980s DDT and other halogenated pesticides like Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) also aroused great concern as a potential carcinogen (cancer causing substance).

Yet to date, The Egyptian Ministry of agriculture, put calls for bids from Swiss and German companies, for pesticides that are banned in the developed countries. The amount purchased is enough to give every man and woman and child in Egypt half to one and half grams a year. Although this may not be enough to be fatal, it is sufficient to cause serious health problems over the years. That is why kidney and liver failure have become epidemic in Egypt. Cancer cases have risen sharply. Roughly, only roughly 1% of the pesticide used is consumed in killing the pests; the rest end up in water and air.’

- ‘The River Nile, the Life of Egypt’, by Dr. Salah Hassanein. Arab World Books Articles arabworldbooks.com/articles.html#Hassanein



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