Africa’s Nile River suffocating with waste

Juba, South Sudan — The Nile River is the second-longest river in the world. It provides crucial resources to 11 countries, including South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation.

As dawn breaks each day over the Nile, its waters carry a silent plea at the center of a 21st century environmental challenge.

“The river cries out, choked by the very hands it feeds,” said Lueth Reng Lueth, executive director at Community Action Against Plastic Waste South Sudan. “We stand here today to silence that cry, to transform habits, and to introduce sustainable solutions for our people.”

Community Action Against Plastic Waste is a youth-driven nongovernmental organization. Lueth, the organization’s founder, said this once majestic, ancient lifeline for civilizations is now facing a severe environmental threat.

“The Nile is bleeding red — not with blood, but with plastics and waste that suffocate its waters,” said Lueth. “Our town, river and future are all interconnected. The situation here in Bor is dire, and it’s our duty to act.”

Environmental experts predict that more frequent and intense heat waves could cut the Nile’s flow by 75 percent, spike conflicts over water resources and food insecurity, and heighten health risks related to inadequate water supply and sanitation.

Joseph Africano Bartel, South Sudan’s undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Management, explained the importance that water quality has for those who live and work near the banks of the Nile.

“People drink water directly from the Nile or from the streams, resulting into cholera, diarrhea and other waterborne diseases,” said Bartel. ” So, the only solution to improve the quality of water in South Sudan is to establish liquid, solid and medical waste management.”

Lueth believes a good beginning would be for the government to facilitate workshops to teach effective waste management, implement policies that discourage single-use plastic consumption, and provide trucks to regularly collect waste from people who live along the riverbank.

“We are supposed to clean the river sides,” said Elijah Mau, who lives along the riverbank. “It is our lifeline.”

In the longer term, Community Action Against Plastic Waste envisions regular waste collection, plastic levies and fines for littering to enforce environmental awareness. But for now, those changes aren’t on the government’s immediate horizon.

“As a country, we have joined with the U.N., United Nations Environment Program,” said Bartel. “Through the intergovernment negotiating committee, we’re coming up with a treaty that will ban plastic pollution globally.”

Lueth said “The story of Bor and the Nile is at a crossroads.” And the path they choose today will determine if the river continues to sustain life or becomes a relic.

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