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Bringing Sanitation to the Impoverished Nile Delta

Nile Delta
In rural Egypt, the freshwater of the Nile River is a life-giving resource and the main supplier of drinking water; but, due to pollution from human and animal waste, the river is also deadly.

Annually, 5 percent of Egyptian deaths are the result of water contamination and lack of sanitation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Currently, there are as few as 500 rural waste treatment plants in operation throughout more than 5,500 rural villages, with only 37 percent of rural households being covered by a public sewage line.

This lack of sanitation infrastructure is a serious health risk to rural residents because of water contamination. Diarrhea, typhoid fever and E. coli are just a few of the life-threatening illnesses that result from inadequate waste treatment and storage.

In order to fight back against the mounting problem of untreated wastewater seeping or being dumped into the Nile, the World Bank has pledged $550 million to improve existing sanitation facilities in the rural Delta as well as create new sanitation systems throughout Daqahliya, Sharqiya and Beheira in Lower Egypt.

The Sustainable Rural Sanitation Services Program for Results, approved in July 2015 and set to end in October 2020, is designed to restructure the existing centralized system to create a decentralized system, giving local water and sanitation companies (WSCs) within the Nile Delta the ability to expand and cover larger areas while improving their service.

Through this decentralized approach, WSCs are able to generate more local jobs, improving not only the health of poor rural residents but also their economic standing.

Using a bottom-up business model, WSCs are held responsible through a performance-based capital grant (PBCGs) from the Central Government, ensuring empowered employment and quality service to their communities.

The Sustainable Rural Sanitation Services Program for Results is set to serve 769 villages in seven governorates that have a history of releasing untreated wastewater into tributaries of the Nile.

The program will benefit the health and socio-economic status of rural villages as well as aid in preserving the Nile, the largest source of Egyptian freshwater, constituting 98 percent of drinking water.

The program also protects against untreated human waste seeping into the groundwater, leaving impoverished Egyptians with contaminated drinking water. By the end of the five-year period, an estimated 800,000 poor Egyptians will have benefitted from the program.

Claire Colby

Sources: American Institute of Science, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, WHO, International Water and Technology Conference
Photo: The Chronicle Herald