It is often said that the River Nile, the longest River in the world, is God’s gift to Africa.
This is not an exaggeration given the fact that this important river directly or indirectly affects the livelihoods of an estimated population of 437 million people who live in eleven countries that constitute the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) born sixteen years ago.
According to Dr. Upmanu Lall, Director of the Colombia Water Center and a leading expert on hydroclamatology and climate change adaptation, large parts of the world could experience perennial water shortage, come 2015.
On Wednesday this week, Rwanda celebrated the Nile Day with Dr. Vincent Biruta, the Minister of Natural Resources as the Guest of Honour. As pointed out by the Minister, Rwanda’s celebration of the Nile Day was to reflect on the successes and challenges encountered by the Nile Basin members over the years.
Today, we often pit one essential against another as we use river and lake resources to meet our needs. We grow food in ways that send pollution into our drinking water. The era of industrialization often manufacture products in ways that use more water than is necessary.
Forests are decimated without thinking about the erosion that will wash into our waters.
A look at the fastest growing businesses, real estate section in a local newspaper will tell you what adds to property value. Rivers and streams, while usually not as popular as lake shore, are a real enhancement, especially if they are swimmable, fishable or navigable.
There are hundreds of miles of rivers and streams in our areas and, when you think about it, these waters have a lot to do with our life and are the source of much of our lakes’ clean waters.
They carry water and nutrients to areas all around the earth and play a very important part in the water cycle, acting as the core drainage channels for surface water.
Since pre-history rivers have been a source of food; provide a rich source of fish and other edible aquatic life, and above all major source of fresh water, which can be used for drinking and irrigation.
It is therefore no surprise to find most of the major cities of the world are situated on the banks of rivers, hence, help to determine the urban form of cities. The rocks and gravel generated and moved by rivers are extensively used in construction
Many rare plants and trees grow like reeds and other plants like bulrushes grow along the river banks. Species like ducks, voles, otters and beavers make their homes on the river banks.
Other animals use the river for food and drink. Our celebrated wildlife family such as antelopes, lions and elephants go to rivers for water to drink.
The establishment of the Nile Basin Initiative was a positive gesture in demonstrating the commitment required to take actions of preserving the River Nile and harness its resources.People in turn reap the benefits of improved access to reliable and sufficient water to plants, animals and humans.
The Initiative was the first and only all-inclusive regional platform for the Basin States to discuss with trust and confidence the joint management and development of the shared Nile Basin water resources; since then it has strengthened regional water resources planning and management and promoted efficient water use.
The cooperation currently offers assistance for Member States to identify and prepare joint investment projects which take into consideration efficient water use, while providing benefits and distributing costs among beneficiary countries.
This has been through environmental protection and rehabilitation as well as continuous awareness of local leaders on natural resources management, the district has overcome the mentioned challenges and is moving forward to a sustainable development.
Celebrating the Nile Day is an indicator for the growing role which Nile states are playing to reunite, to reactivate inclusive participations and overcome the divisions among the members.
Nile Day, therefore, became an annual celebration to commemorate the establishment of the Nile Basin Initiative.
The day provides an opportunity for Basin beneficiaries to come together to exchange on topical issues related to the cooperative management and development of the shared Nile Basin water. At the same time it gives a leeway on how to extend the same to our local streams which are flowing in the mercies of solid waste deposits.
This year’s event was dedicated to the theme: Water and Improved Livelihoods – Opportunities in Nile Cooperation. The links between water, livelihoods and economic development are quite visible. No human, biological or industrial activity that can run without this precious resource.
Therefore, this year’s theme enhances understanding about the relationship between water and improved livelihoods and creates awareness about its role as one of the most essentials on earth. The challenge brought by water is that it is spread across geographic boundaries which make it difficult to determine ownership.
The Nile Basin Initiative is an important attempt to defuse possible conflict over the Nile water resources. The initiative for preserving River Nile reminds us what we can achieve if we come together and take bold steps to restore and protect our local rivers.
The writer is a consultant and visiting lecturer at the RDF Senior Command and Staff College, Nyakinama.