Uganda is gearing up to host the 6th Nile Basin Development Forum (NBDF) conference, a significant event bringing together Nile Basin countries to discuss and address crucial issues regarding Africa’s longest river. The conference, scheduled for October 18, 2023, in the picturesque setting of Munyonyo in Kampala, underscores the importance of the Nile River to Uganda and the region. The Nile Basin countries encompass Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, with Eritrea serving as an observer.
In a remarkable display of environmental advocacy and solidarity, a group of dedicated environmentalists embarked on a 700km Nile walk. This extraordinary journey, launched on September 27, commenced at Elegu on the Uganda-South Sudan border, tracing the river Nile’s path, and culminated at Jinja’s Source of the Nile. The purpose of this walk was twofold: to raise awareness about the upcoming NBDF conference and to emphasize the critical need to conserve the Nile River. The Nile has long been a lifeline, providing water for agriculture, domestic use, and industrialization in numerous African countries.
In alignment with the conference’s themes, the Ministry of Water and Environment collaborated with the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and the Rotary Clubs of Jinja and Kampala to initiate efforts to safeguard the quality of Nile water from its very source. This endeavor was officially launched at the Source of the Nile in Jinja. One of the cornerstone activities of this initiative is the planting of over 2,000 trees along the riverbanks and within Jinja, a significant step towards preserving the river’s environmental health.
As part of the campaign to create public awareness about environmental conservation, the environmental advocates also conducted a comprehensive cleanup at Jinja’s central market, highlighting the importance of responsible waste disposal and hygiene.
Sowedi Sewagudde, the Commissioner of International and Trans-boundary Water Affairs in the Ministry of Water and Environment, emphasized the pivotal role of the Nile’s source in the river’s geography. Sewagudde advocated for strong environmental protection measures at the river’s source, underscoring the critical importance of maintaining the river’s purity.
He pointed out various challenges affecting the Nile Basin, including issues related to land degradation and water security. As the population within the Nile Basin is projected to reach one billion people in the next 30 years, ensuring an adequate supply of clean water is paramount. Sewagudde stressed the necessity of preserving the water quality in Lake Victoria, the Nile’s source, to prevent pollution downstream, underscoring the shared responsibility of all nations along the river.
The NBDF has ambitious plans to champion projects and joint investments that benefit all the countries within the Nile Basin. Notable examples include the Lusumo hydro-power dam, constructed between Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi, which provides power to the respective countries, and the Angololo multipurpose dam, a $130 million project under construction at the River Malaba, set to benefit Uganda and Kenya.
Wilbert Ikulai, the Manager of Environment and Education Advocacy at NEMA, called for collective responsibility in maintaining a clean and healthy environment. Ikulai voiced concerns about plastic pollution, where discarded bottles and waste find their way into the waters of the Nile, causing environmental degradation and impacting the health of those who rely on the river’s water.
He emphasized the importance of proper waste management and urged the public to refrain from littering bottles and waste materials. Pollution, he warned, was turning the Nile’s waters green and posed a threat to both the environment and public health.
Daudi Sserwawude Nsubuga from the Rotary Club of Kampala Central highlighted the Rotary’s commitment to preserving the Nile. The Rotary spearheaded a river cleanup campaign, rallying the community to restore the Nile’s environmental health. He also emphasized the importance of tree planting as a cornerstone of environmental conservation.
As Uganda prepares to host the NBDF conference, the impressive efforts along the Nile underscore the significance of the river, uniting communities in a shared commitment to protect the environment and safeguard this vital resource. The 6th NBDF conference promises to be a platform for constructive dialogue and collaboration among Nile Basin countries, forging a path towards a sustainable future.