Stretching over 4,000 miles, the Nile River flows through Africa and the Nile Delta creating a haven of growth in an otherwise arid region. The various river communities that encircle this enormous river utilize the fertile lands around it to grow crops and create irrigation systems. And while the Nile provides an endless source of water in Egypt, it is also home to infectious bacteria and other health hazards. This fact is made worse by the fact that only 37% of the rural households in this region are connected to a public sewage line. Therefore, wastewater is often mixed in with clean, drinking water that is used for irrigation and bathing.
Diarrhea, typhoid fever and e.coli are three of several infectious diseases that have rampantly infiltrated the Nile Delta. Due to the fact that Egyptians in this area rely on informal systems of sanitation and sewage, wastewater is often dumped back into the Nile River and continues to contaminate the fresh water sources that communities use on a daily basis. This is reinforced by the fact that many Egyptians believe this method of dumping wastewater into fresh water sources is acceptable. In last week’s article, I noted that government intervention, coordination, and accountability is vital to the success of sanitary projects. The problem in the Nile Delta shows that state-funded sewage systems have been created but have not followed through in addressing the underlying problems with septic waste entering fresh water sources.
Constant streams of Egyptians are entering the Nile Delta to reap the benefits of its fertile land, further exacerbating and complicating the current problems facing this region. As the increasing contamination affects the Nile’s water quality, the Guardian reports that local farmers in the Nile Delta must “put aside between 25 and 80% of their profits for [fertilizers] just to keep their crops alive.” Dr Rick Tutwiler, director of the American University in Cairo's Desert Development Centre says, ”You've got a massive population, overcrowding, a threat to all natural resources from the pressure of all the people, production, pollution, cars and agricultural chemicals. And on top of all that, there's the rising sea.”
But, there’s hope. On October 4, Egypt and the World Bank signed a $550 million program with the goal to improve sanitation services for the more than 800,000 Egyptians living in the Nile Delta. The focus of this program is to deal with untreated sewage and face the looming environmental and health threats in the region. This deal, along with the Sustainable Rural Sanitation Services Program for Results, which was approved in July 2015, will provide necessary restructuring to existing sanitation systems.
Protecting this Egyptian population is necessary to the economic development of the region as well. The business model of the Sanitation Rural Sanitation Services Program for Results emphasizes local water and sanitation companies (WSCs) in order to spread the reach of their programs and encourage local accountability. As a result, these WSCs are generating local jobs and improving the economic standing of rural communities in the Nile Delta. However, the first step in fixing the Nile Delta’s sanitation problem is recognizing the importance for the global community and regional organizations to collaborate in order to bring the multi-faceted approach that is necessary to ensure proper sanitation to impoverished Egyptian populations.