New Vision (Kampala)

28 November 2012

Uganda: River Nile Contaminated With Faeces - Report

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The rampant pollution of River Nile has worsened the quality of its water with a new report revealing that almost all surface waters in the Nile Basin are now contaminated with faeces.

The State of the River Nile Basin 2012 report shows that concentrations of faecal bacteria have reached over 50 coliform units (CFUs) per 100 milllitres of water.

CFU is an estimate of the number of bacteria in an environment. The report says during the rainy season, the faecal concentrations may rise up to above 1,000cfu per 100 millitres.

"The acceptable number is about 5cfu per 100 ml. But what the report says is an indicator that the water is heavily polluted," explained Eng. Shillingi Mugisha, the head of the Directorate of Water Development (DWD) and board member of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

Flowing 6,695km from Uganda through Sudan, Egypt and into the Mediterranean Sea, River Nile is the longest river in the world.

A total of 238 million people living within the Nile Basin directly or indirectly depend on the river for water for domestic use and agriculture.

Although pollution has affected the Nile throughout the 11 riparian countries, the report says faecal concentrations are much higher in Egypt.

"The faecal concentrations average 500cfu/100ml in most upstream rivers, reaching levels of 150,000cfu/100ml in heavily polluted sections such as the Rosetta branch of the Nile Delta," the report reads.

This, the study says, makes most of the Nile waters unfit for consumption without boiling.

The report was compiled by the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) to support decision-making to promote better management of the common Nile water and environmental resources.

The 2012 edition is the first in a series of reports that will be produced every three years, targeted at policy-makers, parliamentarians and senior government officials.

The report attributes the worsening quality of Nile waters mainly to population pressure in the 11 Nile Basin countries, estimated at 437 million people.

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