News / Africa

Nile States Work to Improve Quantity, Quality of Waters

Cairo, the capital of Egypt, on the bank of the Nile River
Cairo, the capital of Egypt, on the bank of the Nile River

This is Part 4 of a 5-part series: Sharing the Nile's Waters
Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

The countries along the Nile have been at odds recently over how to share its waters. But beyond the issue of quantity is the question of quality, and how well states use what they have.  

Egyptians are fond of saying that without the Nile, there wouldn't be an Egypt.   The river provides some 95 percent of the country's water and, for thousands of years, an intricate series of canals and irrigation channels have turned the desert along its banks into farmable and now densely-populated land.

The only problem is that Nile water is unclean.  "Water is a basic right for every human being and, once we all agree that it is a basic right, we all should work to providing this basic right in a decent way.  I mean better quality, good quantity and so on," said Mahmoud Abu Zeid, president of the Arab Water Council and a former minister of water.

Polluted Nile River
Polluted Nile River

He says both industrial pollution and agricultural run-off harm the quality of Nile water.  But the most pressing issue, he says, is the wholesale dumping of human waste.  

In the cities, only 60 percent of human waste enters a sewage system. In the villages, less than 40.  Dirty water is blamed for the deaths of about 17,000 children a year from dysentery alone.  The chlorination system can break down or people actually drink from the Nile.

One of Egypt's rivals for Nile waters is Ethiopia. Ayman Shabana, professor of African Affairs at Cairo University, says the situation there is even worse.

"Ethiopia has abundant water, but 76 percent of its population lack fresh water or clean water for one main reason - not its shortage, but to due to bad administration and the lack of financial resources," said Shabana.

Poor governance and insufficient funds in the Nile states seem to be at the core of the problem. Sewage systems are expensive and are just one of many infrastructure projects needed.  Officials say international aid has helped, but falls short.

Abu Zeid says one short-term way to improve quality is tied to quantity. "The river is more than 6000 kilometers long.  If we have some pollution in the upper areas, by the time it gets here, this quality will be improved a little bit," he said.  

Which means if less water is wasted along the way, the larger volume will help dilute pathogens and pollutants.

Authorities in Egypt are not optimistic. "We have a lot to do, to accomplish," said Mahmoud Abu Zeid.  "And until we accomplish that, in fact, it will take actually about 20 years for Egypt.  So we'll suffer the deterioration of the quality of both the canal[s] and the river and drainage system, too."

The government is trying to raise awareness about water use and pollution.  But until it can build enough waste-disposal infrastructure, the Nile will continue to hold the promise of life, just not a clean one.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs