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The Nile Threatened By Pollution Says Report

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The new State of the Nile Basin Report 2020 released on Monday said localised high pollution is experienced mainly around urban centres.
23 Feb 2021 11:38
Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), a species that originated in South America, is chocking the Nile and other transboundary waters resources

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The quality of the Nile waters has generally deteriorated because of population growth and urbanisation, agricultural intensification, and industrial development.

The new State of the Nile Basin Report 2020 released on Monday said localised high pollution is experienced mainly around urban centres.

The report compiled by the Nile Basin Initiative Secretariat based in Entebbe said there is considerable risk that fresh water downstream of major urban areas may become polluted and de facto unusable.  

Launching the report, Rwanda’s Environment Minister, Jeanne d'Arc Mujawamariya said countries in the Nile Basin need to periodically reflect and monitor some of the developments responsible for increasing pollution of the Nile.

She said rising water abstractions from the river, rapid land use change and heavy pollution have exerted increasing pressure on the Nile water resources and the ecosystems that support their continuous provision of clean water.

Other studies have shown that Nile pollutants are derived from sources such as industrial wastewater, oil pollution, municipal wastewater, agricultural drainage, and natural cyanotoxins. also known as (also known as blue-green algae)

The blooming of cyanobacteria, elicited by excess nutrients leads to the production of cyanotoxins, which affect the health of fish and may poison them.

In Uganda, it is common to find trucks, cars, motorcycles parked in river streams for washing and yet those are known for spillage of oils into the water. Bush burning along the river coupled with cultivation within the river banks increasing on pollution levels.

Presenting the report, Nile Basin Initiative’s Senior Water Resources Management Specialist, Dr. Dr. Michael Kizza said the report tries to present a case for countries to work together to innovate solutions to the water security challenges.

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The 6,600-kilometre Nile stretches across 11 countries—Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Despite its importance, the Nile is still heavily polluted by waste and rubbish poured directly in to it, as well as agricultural runoff and industrial waste, with consequences for biodiversity, especially fishing, and human health.

The report projects projected imbalance between available water and growing water demand is likely to be substantial.

“Nevertheless, water savings are possible if losses in existing irrigation schemes can be reduced. This includes potential reduction of losses, where the estimated direct evaporation losses are estimated from 100 to 250 mm per year.”

It calls on countries to explore rain waters harvesting as one of the options related to water abstraction.   “Rainwater represents a very substantial water resource that is currently underused. Specifically, the productivity of rainwater is low in rain-fed farming across the Nile Basin – which covers 87% of arable land. It suggests large untapped water resources and agricultural potential” spreads part of the report

Implications of Agricultural development for water and food security

The authors of the report said It is clear  that water scarcity will constrain a large expansion of areas under full irrigation supplied by surface water from the Nile or its tributaries.

They observed that a very large share of the additional food produce required, therefore, needs to come from the use and improvements – regarding yield, total production, and water productivity – in irrigated systems and large available arable lands in the Basin and more importantly, from improvements in the large rain-fed sector.

At a global level, water shortages are now affecting more than 3 billion people. FAO data has shown that the amount of fresh water available for each person has plunged by a fifth over two decades.

It is estimated that about 1.5 billion people are suffering severe water scarcity or even drought, as a combination of climate breakdown, rising demand and poor management has made agriculture increasingly difficult across swathes of the globe.

Rain-fed agriculture represents 60% of global crop production, and 80% of land under cultivation, with the rest benefiting from irrigation.