Not only are Habib and his colleagues working on the thorough cleaning of the Nile River within Egyptian territory, but they are also in contact with initiatives in Uganda and Rwanda to clean up the river, which passes through 11 African countries. The campaign states, “The Nile is one of 10 rivers that contribute 90% of the plastic that ends up in the oceans.”
Habib added, “Fish in the river are also affected by plastic waste. The fishermen who have joined our initiative told us that in the past the amount of fish caught in the Nile was much more than it is now.”
Last year, a study published by the University of Oslo showed that many Nile fish had ingested microplastic particles. “Fish were purchased from local sellers in Cairo, and then their gastrointestinal tracts were dissected and examined for microplastics … over 75% of the fish sampled contained microplastics in their digestive tract,” the research found.
Egypt depends entirely on its 55.5 billion cubic meters share of the Nile water that it receives annually — an amount that does not meet the needs of 100 million citizens. According to the United Nations, the water poverty line is 1,000 cubic meters of water per person per year, while the percentage of water per person in Egypt is currently 600 cubic meters per year.
It is also likely that Cairo’s share of water will decrease once the GERD, which Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, is operational. Despite Egypt’s attempts for years to reach an agreement with Addis Ababa to ensure an adequate water quota for its residents, negotiations have not resulted in any settlement yet.
Egypt’s media coverage of the uncertainty surrounding the waters of the Nile drew Egyptians’ attention to the GERD negotiations. “When we felt the danger of being exposed to water scarcity, citizens’ awareness has begun to increase dramatically, and the state is still working to educate all individuals at all levels,” Ali Abu Senah, assistant to the Egyptian Minister of Environment for Projects, told Al-Monitor.
Abu Senah said, “Plastic waste does not directly affect the quality of the water according to the results of the monitoring. But it causes damage due to the accumulation of garbage in dams and bridges on the course of the Nile, which puts a great financial burden on the state in the cleansing work.”
He added, “The ministry is currently working on issuing a national strategy to limit the use of single-use plastic bags and planning to form a technical committee to discuss alternatives to plastic materials.”
In addition to the awareness campaigns that VeryNile carries out among Egyptians, the Egyptian Ministry of Environment is also working to engage universities in raising awareness about the harmful effects of plastics and to support NGOs and initiatives that implement Nile cleanup operations. “The ministry is working intensively with NGOs to complete the plan of making the Nile 100% plastic free,” Abu Senha concluded.