The Nile River, at 7,000 kilometres (4,350 miles), is Africa's longest river. Its waters run through 11 countries and for the 280 million people living alongside its banks, the Nile symbolises life itself. Just as it did for those who settled along the river centuries ago.

Some fear if the dispute is not resolved, the Nile will dry up. One of the loudest voices fighting to save the river, explains exactly what is at stake.

Dr Essam Heggy, a scientist from the University of Southern California, talks to Al Jazeera and explains the significance of the Nile River.

"The Nile River is a very unique ecosystem, it's a very unique hydrological system, it is a very unique water body on our plane," Heggy says, explaining that the Nile is the only giant river that goes from the South to North and through five different climatic zones.

He also points out that the Nile is one of the oldest and most unique ecosystems on the planet.

"The Nile River is twenty to thirty million years old. Today we don't know how we can make rivers flow in a constant way for this amount of time … its existence helps us understand the Earth's evolution."

But a huge new project in Ethiopia has triggered a big dispute with Egypt and scientists are warning construction of the Renaissance Dam, aimed at boosting Ethiopia's electricity source, could cause irreversible damage, not only in Egypt but the entire region.

"It's a great river but in a very challenging place," Heggy says.

"This whole conception that you can suffocate the Nile, and yet benefit out of its resources, from the environmental perspective, it is wrong."

Source: Al Jazeera News