3230113337 f18cb4f37b m SWOT analysis and challenge of Nile Basin Initiative; an Integrated Water Resource Management perspective
Image by ESP Indonesia

1. Introduction

It is on record that river Nile is one of the world’s longest transboundary rivers flowing a distance of more than 6,700 kilometres from its farthest source at the headwaters of the Kagera Basin in Rwanda and Burundi to the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt. Its catchments basin covers approximately 10% of the African continent and river is shared by ten riparian countries which include Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The Basin contains an extraordinarily rich and varied range of ecosystems, with mountains, tropical forests, woodlands, savannas, high and low altitude wetlands, arid lands and deserts (World Bank, 2008). Since the Nile waters do not stop at administrative or political boundaries, the river basin has been of great importance as regards human settlement, development of a rich diversity of cultures, civilisation and development for centuries. As of today, the Nile is a crucial resource for the economic development of the Nile basin States and a vital source of livelihood for 160 million inhabitants as well as 300 million people living in the ten riparian countries (Ibid). It’s estimated that in the next 25 years, the population in the Nile basin will be 600 million.

Nevertheless, for decades, the Nile basin people have been facing many complex environmental, social, economic and political challenges that have made it difficult of the proper management and sustainability of Nile water. Such problems include among others, disputes and conflicts over the control and use of the Nile waters; extreme poverty, food insecurity; droughts; floods; environmental degradation exacerbated by high population growth; inadequate sanitary services; unreliable electricity, water scarcity; lack of cooperation on the shared resources of the Nile basin (World Bank, 2008: 1-2, World Bank, 2003a: 5).  The transboundary nature of the river also possesses extra challenge.

Consequently, the Nile basin States jointly recognised that the best way to utilize, protect and manage the Nile basin in an integrated sustainable way was through a close international co-operation between and among all the countries within the natural, geographical and hydrological unit of the river whereby all interests of upstream and downstream countries are considered. However, this cooperative management of the Nile River Basin is one of the greatest challenges of the global international water agenda (World Bank, 2003a, 2004a).  Nevertheless, it is an important catalyst for greater regional integration, economic, political, knowledge integrations with benefits far exceeding those derived from the river itself.

2. Strategy for management of the Nile River with reference to the Nile Basin Initiative

The recognition of the cooperative management of the Nile by the Nile Basin States has given birth to the Nile Basin Initiative which reflects various aspects of integrated water resource management. The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) is one of the recent international historic cooperative river basin management program and regional partnership where all the Nile basin states except Eritrea unite to pursue long-term sustainable development, improved land use practices and management of the Nile water resource for the benefit of all without discrimination (World Bank, 2008:2).

The history of the Nile Basin Initiative dates back in 1992 when the Council of Ministers of Water Affairs of the Nile Basin states recognized the need for regional cooperation and integration for regional growth, environmental conservation and the equitable sustainable development of the entire Nile Basin (Guvele, 2003). In that political atmosphere, the Technical Cooperation Committee for the Promotion of Development and Environmental Protection of the Nile Basin (TECCONILE) was formed which later created the Nile river Basin Action Plan in 1995 (NRBAP)(Ibid). In this Action Plan, the need to establish a Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework was at its centre stage and fortunately, this partially materialised in 1999 when the “transitional” Nile basin Initiative (NBI) was launched (Ibid).

2.1 State of Planning and implementation

Recognizing their common concerns and interests, the NBI embarked with a participatory process of dialogue among the Nile basin states that fashioned a shared vision “to achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources” (World Bank, 2008: 2). The policy guideline which accompanies the agreed joint shared vision provides a basin- wide cooperative water resource management framework and also defines the primary objectives of NBI. These objectives include;

1) To develop the water resources of the Nile Basin in a sustainable and equitable way

2) To ensure prosperity, security, and peace for all its peoples;

3) To ensure efficient water management and the optimal use of the resources;

4) To ensure cooperation and joint action between the riparian countries, seeking win-win gains;

5) To target poverty eradication and promote economic integration; and

6) To ensure that the program results in a move from planning to action.

In order to implement and achieve the NBI objectives as well as translating the agreed shared vision into action and fostering co-operative development on the Nile, the riparian governments developed a Strategic Action Program composed of two complementary sub-programs which include Shared Vision Program (SVP) and Subsidiary Action Programs (SAPs) (World Bank, 2008:2-3; 2003a:5-8 ). As of today, the Nile Basin Initiative with its strategic Action Program represents a deep commitment by the Nile riparian countries to foster cooperation, regional integration and sustainable development of the Nile River.  It is composed of the Council of Ministers of Water of the member states (Nile-COM), and a Technical Advisory Committee (Nile-TAC), comprising technical representatives from the member states.

However, the Nile Basin Initiatives’ Strategic Action Program is a greatest fundamental turning point and landmark towards integrated water resource management of the Nile River. In it whole, the Strategic Action Program is trying to create a knowledge base and essential tools for integrated water resource management through regional, economic, spatial sectoral and knowledge integration.

3. Analysis of the Nile Basin initiative’s Strategic Action Program

As already mentioned, the Strategic Action Program is composed of two components which include the Subsidiary Action Programs (SAP) having two branches one called the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program, (ENSAP) and the others called the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program, (NELSAP). The second component of  Strategic Action Program is the Shared Vision Programs (SVP) and is funded by the World Bank(WB), African Development Bank(ADB), Global Environmental Facility(GEF) and Nile Basin Trust Fund (NBTF), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)(World Bank, 2003a; 2004a; 2008).

The analysis begins with Shared Vision Programs which form the core of the NBI. It include seven thematic projects as discussed analysed below.

1) The Nile Transboundary Environmental Action Project

This project came into existence after the Nile basin Countries carried out a participatory Nile Basin Transboundary Environmental Analysis that identified various environmental concerns related to water resources (World Bank, 2003b). The environmental concerns identified included, deforestation that has led to losses of biologically important habitats, high rates of soil erosion leading to sedimentation of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs; localized water pollution arising from agriculture, industry, mining and domestic effluent; proliferation of aquatic weeds, particularly water hyacinth and wetland land reclamation (Ibid:15). However, some of these problems like deforestation and erosion are just symptoms of big underlying root causes like poor government developmental policies, which the program never identified.

Poverty and population growth were also singled out to cause additional pressures on natural resources and this has been compounded by a lack of awareness of land-water interactions and the functioning of critical ecosystems. However, this project does not capture how the consumption patterns of the high population are leading to environmental problems and how poverty actually causes pressures on natural resources quantitatively. It should be noted that poverty per se, has nothing to do with environmental problems but it is the underlying mechanisms that cause poverty which possess a big threat to the environment.  The project also ignores the issues of climate change which is arousing serious threats to African Continent.

Nevertheless, the Transboundary Environmental Action Project with its management unit located in Khartoum, Sudan was implemented in 2004.  As of today, various stakeholders are involved in the project and are greatly supported by the project. The project provides training to develop skills in government ministries, NGOs and local communities in each country in such areas as environmental management and monitoring, water quality monitoring, and conservation of wetlands (World Bank, 2003b, 2008). It is also working to raise awareness of critical environmental issues by strengthening networks of environmental education practitioners; developing curriculum for primary, secondary and university students; and supporting