Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 12 July 2016

Nile Basin Community: Critical issues, mainly water, but not merely


By Mohamed Yassin

The Nile Basin Initiative constitutes a major accumulative positive cooperation platform for the Nile Basin states, but still has its fragility and partial exclusivity. It is fragile in terms of its limited mandates and focus only on water as a single resource, though it is true that the water is the vital and driving asset for the Nile Basin cooperation and existence, however, The Nile Basin is not only and merely water. Also it is fragile because of its limited financial support and geopolitical polarization, frictions and sensitivity when it comes to historical conflicts. The Nile is a unifying identity for all the Nilotic riparian people, being Africans or Arabs or both, while the African orientation for the Nilotic people is resisted by the upper Egyptian and to some extend proportion of the Sudanese inhabitants and vice versa by the other components of the basin. It is partially exclusive because it does not provide full weight to all the Nile Basin States, as Eretria stands as observer. The Nile Basin does not have the same dimensions and magnitude of contribution when it comes to the single riparian country, while some members would tend to consider it as their own and exclusive asset with a narrative of national security. Fragile due to the weakness of a Nile basin wide sense of belonging, togetherness and mutual identity.

The Nile Basin community and institutions should have posts or liaison offices in the various universities and research institutes in order to feed itself by graduates and researchers in the various disciplines and entrepreneurship. It should be job creator and stimulate creation of start-ups and business incubators. It should be an institution that thinks and operate out of the traditional boxes. It should provide enabling environment for the youth and young graduates and researcher(s) preferable through creation of innovative Basin-wide mobility. Most of the challenges of the poverty, rapid urbanization, growing demography and socio economic which are accentuated in the Nile Basin requires mobilization of skilled human resources blended with robust financial and territorial capitals. These interconnected and interdependent challenges can not be addressed by a single riparian state in isolation of the others. The Nile Basin community should work hard and collectively to ensure achievement of the sustainable development, poverty reduction and reduce social and territorial exclusion, it is ought to provide special attention and affirm the importance of full youth employment, through better skills and upgraded capacities and designated specific trainings through the formal education blended with tailored innovations, knowledge upgrading and alignment, and experience sharing and stimulate financial support to harness social development in the coaching technical, vocational, educational, agricultural and healthcare domain. The Nile Basin community can not move far without linking its strategies with the global development agenda 2030 and the regional agenda 2063. For the achievement of these agendas, synergies and accurate coordination is imperative. The active policy-makers and influencers should be smart enough to realize that co-sharing, co-management, collaboration and cooperation is mutually and reciprocally beneficial for the Nile Basin collectivity. They should not let the divisiveness tendencies defeat their good wills of togetherness and common sense of belonging, destiny, solidarity and institutional empowerment. The collaboration and cooperation should be based on bold scientific basis, deep and broad understanding and genuine trust and all the noble principles of accountability, transparency, openness, sincerity, collective ownership, and subsidiarity.

Here I am reporting some notions from my research findings and observations and would like to share it with the public to highlight and brings insights on critical issue that we as diverse stakeholders entrusted in steering the general policies concerning the Nile should bring to the discussion forum and may be consider what is appropriate for uptake and upscale. The points are neither inclusive, however, I think it might be beneficial to embrace it in the boxes and go beyond it in a creative thinking out of the conventional schemes. In summary these critical Issues in the Nile Basin: Evidenced through the research and direct observation from field trips and stay within various Nile Basin Territories, the research observation shed major lights and brought insights on some critical issues, for that purpose it recommends creation of permanent laboratory and working groups to deal with that issues in updating and visionary approaches. Of course, there are plenty of themes for a potential permanent laboratory to focus on, however, the following identified themes will allow to evidence and highlight potentially possible areas of collaboration, technical cooperation and scientific operation between the engaged and evolvable institutions.

1. Lack of shared visions
The primary observation of generic characteristics is concerning the scarcity or inadequacy of shared vision on the principal challenges, which are of trans-boundary and global nature and are evidenced in the whole Nile territories of concern. Special focus will involve those Nile Basin territories, which are witnessing and foreseen to witness significant demographic, social and economic dynamics and environmental consequentiality.

2. Legislations
An important observation of concern is on the lack of, non-reinforced and un-harmonized legislations and legal framework especially on environmental issues of trans-boundary dimensions. There is huge gap between the theoretically set legislations and norms and its implementation on the ground and crude reality.

3. Heritage: Preservation And Management
One of the primary observations is the need for inclusion of the heritage preservation, protection and management in the concerned territories, and that could be enhanced through transfer of experience and knowledge accumulated from the different UNESCO programs and its pilot projects in the diversity of fields such as the Earthen Architecture.

4. Sewerage Systems, garbage treatment, solid and liquid waste management
Another evident lacuna is regarding the sewerage systems and its management in relation to the dumping and drainage in the basins of different solid and liquid waste. That challenging situation has direct impacts on the ecological systems of the Nile Basin, which is directly connected to the continental and global ecosystems such as the Mediterranean ecosystem. The concern here is the water pollution and connected resource-base and ecological foundations. Missing is a comprehensive vision of models of absorptions of such massive solid and liquid wastes which should encompass the entire Nile Territory. Still the mechanism and the vision of reuse, recycle and conversion of such waste in useful resources are missing and need to be put in place to avoid future setbacks and ecological disasters. Vision of recycling of strongly urbanizing agglomerations and growing metropolitan regions are badly needed.

5. Infrastructural post-intervention Scenarios
Of strategic importance, is the construction of scenarios of the infrastructural post-interventions of great operas and infrastructures which will interest and impact on the territorial assets and concerned regions. Practically, it is dealing with better understanding, for instance, what will be the predictions of the possible impacts of great infrastructures such as dams, on the socio-geography in loci where that infrastructures are erected and beyond.

6. The demographic challenge
Strictly correlated to the realization of the great infrastructures are the demographic aspects, which are consequentiality of the tumultuous growth of the populations, which is verifying in most of the East African territories and along the Nile Basin. Furthermore, that manifestations and phenomena are connected to the polarization capacities exercised by that important infrastructure, such as the dams which generate natural growth and accumulation of population and determine the natural resources management and governance through the very infrastructures and its connected assets and services, such as the planned dwellings and collective housing, schools, health centres and hospitals, roads, resettlements agglomerations. The unplanned and shaky visions of such impacts and growth will lead to the exaltation of diminishing equilibrium in the impacted territories. The demographic growth also requires a wise vision on its impacts on the existing great metropolitan areas in the region especially on the along the Nile Basin. From that prevision, harmonization, and control and management of those mechanisms of demographic development, a sustainable and equilibrated development and prosperity can prevail in the concerned Nile Basin and the whole East African territories.

7. Urban growth and sustainable settlement models
The demographic aspects following the tumultuous population growth, which is witnessed in the most of the Nile Basin territories in particular and in the East African region as a whole is generating increase in the dimensions of the great metropolitan areas in the capital cities and towns of most of the Nile Basin riparian states other than in the newly developed and sprawling urban agglomerations along the main rivers and water bodies and courses. All these phenomena require deep studies and research capable of suggesting appropriate and sustainable models of settlements other than identifying corrective measures and tools to the informal settlements, which are developing in a growing pattern around the urban centres. Furthermore, the improvement of the vernacular dwellings based on the utilization of local materials and optimization of the constructive and construction culture of the diverse communities constitute a challenging current reality and above all for generations to come, concrete answers and concerted actions to the sustainable development of the whole territories under focus.

8. Food Systems, Food and Nutrition Security: Challenges associated with the environment
The necessity to guarantee the food and nutrition security in an ever growing, sprawling and densely populated areas, above all along the major rivers, tributaries and water bodies and streams is a domain of major importance. That needs visioning and modalities on how to integrate functional food systems in such concentrated urbanizing and problematic realities. The Nile Basin community should consider its food and nutrition security as top and strategic priority before running to irresponsible investments aiming to secure elsewhere rather than securing food and adequate nutrition for the vulnerable people of the Nile Basin community.

9. Immigrants / Europe
An important consideration which necessitate putting in action corrective strategies in concern of the evidenced facts that growing numbers of immigrants to Europe are stemming from the African continent, especially from the East Africa and Nile Region. That will lead to significant socio-demographic transformation and development. The Nile Basin institution can consider Nile Wide free movements of its citizens, and may adopt a sort of Nile Basin Community travel documents or laissez-passer. This might help easing the current tensions, frictions, and smuggling as well, and considering such measures, the Nile populations will have better circulation of goods, services, people as the Nile water is circulating through the entire Nile Basin States up to the Mediterranean basin.

10. Trail of new frontiers of multi-disciplinary sciences such as the Agritecture and annexed visions
What Agritecture vision for transforming the smallholder agriculture in the Nile Basin?
As the Nile Basin sustains almost half billion inhabitants and foreseen to double within this century, causing a huge impact on the environment, the society and the economy at local and global level. It is interconnected and interdependent in its Agritecture policies and governance especially for the smallholder family farming systems. The on-going urbanization and Agrifood system revealed to be unsustainable, following its current pathways, which are not reconciling the nature conservation while launching sustainable development. The current development models are too much resource(s) demanding and resources consumptive in terms of energy, land, forest, water, biodiversity, fauna and flora. To address such challenging reality, innovative approaches transcending the boundaries of the current disciplines are needed to anticipate a possible urbanizing population concentrated in limited spaces with limited sustaining resources. The emerging Agriculture and the connected Archifood can provide possible and potential sustainable solutions, options and vision, offering strong push to the urban planning, design, architecture incorporating agricultural farming and practices embedding the food and nutrition culture and issues for the benefit of the smallholders in the rural and urban context. There is a need of innovative and integrated disciplines, which require certain degree of permeability and flexibility of professional figures, policy makers and territorial governance. The Nile Basin institutions should encourage researches, which intend to bring into mainstream discussion on the Agritecture as a fundamental proposal for the visionary future of the Nile Basin and contribute to be a founding cornerstone throughout the following innovative methodologies in studying the Nile Basin territories in a sustainable developmental perspective.

Lastly, worth to notice that the Nile Basin issues and policy are highly influenced by biased and polarized media, often providing inaccurate and inflated information, misplaced statements and attributes, conflictive and divisive coverage and reporting, Nilotic-stereotypes, politically steered and incorrect propaganda, misperceptions and connected myth and misused platforms for tiny interest and services and narrow and shallow visions.

My sincere hope remain that, all these points will be well tackled and cleared by the Nile Basin diplomacy in communitarian participatory approaches for the benefit of the whole Nile Basin community.

Mohamed Yassin is a Sudanese and Italian scholar in Economics, Ecology, Landscape and Territory at the University of Udine, Italy. He holds B.Sc. in Agricultural and Rural Economy (University of Khartoum, Sudan), Post Graduate Degree in Rural development in Developing countries, Post Graduate Degree in International Development Cooperation, Masters degree in International Business Import Export Management and Masters degree in International Veterinary Cooperation (Italy). He has been visiting scholar at the University of Minnesota (USA) where he conducted research works on the Nile Basin. He is reachable at this address: Department of Civil Engineering & Architecture, University of Udine, Italy, Institutional E-mail: mohamed.yassin@uniud.it Private E-mail: yassintowers@gmail.com and Twitter: @MohamedSMYassin

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