By Esther Nakkazi
Policy makers based in the River Nile Basin, now have a monitoring tool to support their decisions and present expert analyses with factual data to communities for better stewardship of the common Nile waters and environmental resources.
A report on the state of the Nile basin- which, will be issued every three years- was launched by Betty Bigombe, the Minister of State for Water and prepared by the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), an inter-governmental regional organization for the River Nile recently in Kampala.
The State of the River Nile Basin Report 2012 was prepared by NBI staff and funded by the German government through GIZ, is also expected to generate discussion, trigger common policy interventions and convergence.
“The report takes stock of past actions, present challenges and future opportunities for improving the stewardship of the Nile, and defines a list of indicators for monitoring the health of the basin,” said Stanislas Kamanzi, the minister of Natural resources, Rwanda.
Kamanzi also the chairperson of Nile Council of Water Ministers said the report, now a flagship knowledge product of the NBI countries, would promote cooperation amongst Nile riparian states for successful management of the basin.
In Europe, it has been established that creation of common basin monitoring tools for transboundary river basins can contribute to mutual trust and joint policy-making.
As a common planning tool for the River Nile basin, this report is expected to contribute to the building of trust and confidence amongst Nile riparian countries, said Dr Nicholas Azza, a water policy specialist with the NBI who is one of the lead researchers.
And with time it will discern trends into the future facilitate the understanding of complex issues and will draw attention to emerging critical happenings, said Dr. Azza.
One of the critical issues about the 4,100-mile River Nile is access to the waters by upstream countries Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda which felt unfairly treated by the agreements signed by the British in 1920 that favoured downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
The upstream countries have been demanding for more access to the Nile waters and a series of meetings have been held to have a new agreement, the Cooperative Framework Agreement, which would regulate the water use by different countries.
“It is comprehensive and important for planning for all those who will read it. We shall use it to create awareness in our communities using its accurate information,” said Fekahmed Negash, the Head of the Nile Basin Administration Directorate.
Negash said in the past they have been presented with uncoordinated and biased information depending on the source and their interests but this factual information will now ease that problem.
But it is not your traditional report with a lot of research, rather many facts were pulled together and policy briefs generated by NBI staff who carried it out. It has many photos and graphs for easy readability.
The Nile is the longest river in the world and has a drainage area exceeding 3 million square kilometers, shared by eleven countries.
“It is a credible source of information we can rely on and keep updating. It is a chance to have a better judgment for the good of our people who share the Nile basin,” said Dr. Sherif M. EL Sayed the head of Information Central Directorate, Ministry of Water resources and Irrigation in Egypt.
The 256-page report, and the first ever, however points to the quality of the Nile waters which has generally deteriorated because of increases in population, intensification of agricultural activities, industrial development and accelerating in soil erosion.
It is only in the sparsely populated areas along the Nile water in countries like Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda where the quality is still within the standards of the riparian countries and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The launch ceremony was witnessed by members of the Nile Technical Advisory Committee (Nile-TAC) representing the ten NBI Member States of Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda as well as NBI Development Partners, representatives of the Nile Basin Discourse as well as staff of NBI.