Programme to end environmental degradation in Nile Basin receives first funds

The first meeting of The International Consortium for Cooperation on the Nile (ICCON) has ended with initial donations of $140 million to kickstart the fight against environmental degradation in the river basin and boost both farm output and power generation.

The meeting from 26-28 June in Geneva, brought together the international donor community and NGOs in support of the Nile Basin Initiative – a cooperative programme to address environmental degradation, poverty and instability in the Nile Basin, and was attended by Ministers of Water Affairs from the 10 countries that are bound together by the River Nile: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

While concerns were expressed over instability in the region, with wars raging in D.R Congo and Sudan and instability in Burundi, it was hoped that the new initiative might serve as an example of how international waters can become catalysts for cooperation, development, and stability. The meetings agreed on a first phase for the investment programme consisting of seven projects: confidence building and stakeholder involvement; applied training; socio-economic development and benefit sharing; water resources planning and management; transboundary environmental action; regional power trade; and efficient water use for agricultural production.

The estimated costs of the projects, which will last for five years, are anticipated to amount to about US$3 billion. The initial US$140 million pledged came from the governments of the UK, Canada, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries, with others promising forthcoming donations.

Two further programmes under the Nile Basin Initiative, designed to promote environmental sustainability in the Eastern Nile, shared by Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, and the Equatorial Lakes regions, upon which Burundi, D.R Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda depend presented various priority projects at the meeting. These projects ranged from efficient water use for agriculture and hydropower interconnection, to watershed management.

At present about 160 million people live within the boundaries of the Nile basin, but some 300 million are dependent on Nile waters. Besides war and instability, parts of the area are hit by drought, while environmental degradation, poverty and rapid population growth affect all the basin nations.

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