Restoring Nile’s breath, the impossible task?

The Nile River. © Nasa / © Marc Ryckaert

Have you ever been to Asyut, Beni Suef, Cairo at at the end of the Nile delta? Garbages, plastic wastes, bad smell, everywhere. The magnificent Nile turned into a dumping ground, as many rivers and coasts in the region. Once again, civil society finds some one-shot solution. On World Environment Day, the Youth Love Egypt Foundation – in partnership with the United Nations and Cairo Sea Scout team – mobilized dozen of young people to remove plastic wastes from the Nile banks.

“These plastic wastes are collected and transported to recycling plants,” said Head of Youth Love Egypt Foundation Ahmed Fathy to Egypt Today reporter. “The campaign does not only aim to clean the Nile; it will also extend to clean and remove plastic wastes from the shores of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean sea in a number of governorates such as Alexandria, Ismailia and South Sinai.”

Focus has been made on plastic bags in Egypt for the past two years, as many animals die after swallowing those plastic bags. In 2018, a worldwide campaign has been launch under the proactive title “Beat Plastic Pollution”. According to the World Environment Day organization, 13 million tons of plastic leak into the oceans. Sometimes coming from rivers as the Nile. Mohamed Shehab, CEO of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), added on June 5 that Egypt government is fully committed to the 2030 sustainability plan, to erase plastic bags as other Arab or African countries have already agreed.

But plastic bags are not the sole problem. Actually, plastic bags don’t constitute real chemical pollution. In that field, the Nile River is unfortunately one of the post polluted main stream. Motafa El-Sheekh (professor at the Department of Botany of Tanta University) published a study in May 2018, saying that “Egypt is the most populous, agricultural and industrial country in the basin. Therefore, most sewage release to the river takes place in Lower Egypt. … Nile pollutants are derived from sources such as industrial wastewater, oil pollution, municipal wastewater, agricultural drainage, and include natural cyanotoxins.” The battle to restore Nile’s breath is not won yet…