9 March 2004

North Africa: Conserve Water, Odongo Tells Nile Basin Countries

Kampala — ENVIRONMENT state minister Lt. Gen. J. J. Odong has urged countries in the Great Lakes region and the Nile Basin to use their water resources carefully if they are to avoid a catastrophe, writes Gersom Musamali.

Opening the Nile Basin Water Resources Management Project capacity-building workshop at the Entebbe headquarters on Thursday, Odong said increased desertification and pollution levels of water resources were catastrophic if not handled with care.

The project aims at monitoring the River Nile water levels and generating data for forecasting weather patterns in the region.

It is also aimed at monitoring and controlling pollution levels in the river and the lakes that feed it.

The workshop, funded by the Italian Government and supervised by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), drew participants from Burundi, Egypt, Eriteria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

FAO country representative Ajmal M. Qureshi said 160m people live in the Nile Basin that spans over 3m square km, with half the basin countries among the world's poorest.

He said the countries were bedeviled with civil strife, drought, hunger, disease, weak institutions, poverty and ignorance.

Qurash said the basin offered great opportunity for socio-economic development if there were joint efforts equitable water resource utilisation.

He said the workshop would review the achievements so far made.

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