The longest river in the world is drying up. The Nile River Basin is declining due to pressure from overuse, dams, climate change, and other vulnerabilities. The Nile is essential to the lives of about 280 million people in 11 African nations. For as long as the vast Sahara has been a parched desert, people have relied on the riches of this ancient canal.
The Nile Basin has experienced droughts of various degrees over its lengthy history. Although the river has endured the pressure, many who depend on the Nile have faced dire repercussions. The current causes of the Nile River’s drying up extend beyond simple drought and could have a far greater impact than in the past on millions of people. Learn the details and the experts’ projections regarding the current state of affairs in the Nile River Basin by continuing to read.
Where Is the Nile River?
This famous river, which is thirty million years old, flows through eleven countries in northeastern Africa from south to north until draining into the Mediterranean Sea in southeast Egypt. The Nile passes through Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Egypt en route to the sea. The Nile River Basin is, however, mostly located in Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt (around 86%).
Is the Nile River Drying Up?
The Nile was flowing at about 106,000 cubic feet per second fifty years ago. The river’s current flow is just approximately 99,900 cubic feet per second. According to France24, scientists at the United Nations (UN) are concerned that this tendency will continue. According to their most alarming forecasts, if the current droughts continue, the Nile River’s flow might decrease by 70% by the year 2100.
According to recent studies, the Nile is already receding at a startling pace of 0.12-0.2 inches annually. A research done at the American University in Cairo found that the Nile will shrink by 19–32% in response to a 1.6–3.3 foot rise in sea level. By the end of this century, rising sea levels brought on by climate change could drain up to one-third of the freshwater in the Nile River, according to a different research conducted by the National Groundwater Association.
Problems at the Source: Lake Victoria
A study that was published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters suggests that one of the two primary water sources for the Nile River may vanish over the next 400–500 years. The largest tropical lake in the world, Lake Victoria, has been shown to have periodically dried up and replenished, according to the study. The White Nile originates in part from the lake. One of the Nile River’s two primary origins is the White Nile.
The study discovered that at current rates of temperature change and past rates of lake level fall, Lake Victoria could not have an outlet to the White Nile within 10 years, and Kenya could lose access to the lake in less than 400 years. This would have a significant impact on the economic resources Lake Victoria provides to the East African Community. The findings of the study were based on future climate projections.
It appears that water changes brought on by climate change are nothing new to Africa. Although climate change played a significant role in Lake Victoria’s departure thousands of years ago, the causes today are more complex. One example of how human pressures other than climate change might impact water supplies is Lake Chad, which is also a part of the East African lakes region. There were moments when the lake was a part of the White Nile River system.
Lake Chad used to be the size of the U.S. state of Maryland, but between 1963 and 2013, it reduced by 90%. Overuse rather than climate change was the primary cause of the decrease. More water is being removed from the lake by people than rainfall can replace. Similar pressure is seen in Lake Victoria. The Nile River would lose forty percent of its source water if Lake Victoria followed Lake Chad’s path.
Problems at the Source: The Blue Nile
The Blue Nile is the second major source of the Nile River after the White Nile. Up to 60% of the water in the Nile comes from the Blue Nile. The Blue Nile rises in the Ethiopian highlands and meets the White Nile in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, before flowing north into Egypt.
Ethiopia’s recently constructed huge dam poses the biggest threat to the Blue Nile. 17.7 trillion gallons of water can be found in the reservoir of the $5 billion Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD). That is equivalent to twice as much water as Ethiopia’s largest lake, Lake Tana. It is also the volume of water required to submerge a land area of 100,000 square miles at a depth of one foot. According to the Ethiopian government, the dam may produce 5,000 megawatts of energy, more than doubling the nation’s current output. Of the 120 million inhabitants in Ethiopia, only half have access to power.
Since construction started in 2011, GERD has been a point of contention between Ethiopia and its neighbours, Sudan and Egypt. For a very long time, 95% of Egypt’s water demands were met by the Nile River. These requirements will increase if the country’s 109 million inhabitants double by 2050. The ability of the nation to maintain its agricultural sector will be impacted by any Nile River decline.
A Receding Shoreline
The Middle East Policy Council reports that the Nile River’s delta shoreline is eroding by about 60 feet each year. Although they play a role, sea level rise brought on by climate change is not only to blame for the danger facing the Nile.
The Nile Delta is no longer a functional delta, according to a study titled Nile Delta in its Destructive Phase that was published in the Journal of Coastal Research. Coastal erosion is a result of the Nile River’s extensive damming, which has prevented silt and sediment from refilling the delta. The system’s capacity to further rejuvenate itself will be hampered by the diversion of river water into schemes for desert cultivation.The study concluded that during the past 150 years, “the Nile delta has converted to a destruction phase, triggered by water regulation which has disrupted the balance among sediment influx, erosive effects of coastal processes, and subsidence.” “This former depocenter has undergone significant alteration, resulting in a declining and eroding coastal plain in place of a functioning delta.”
The Nile River’s Future
The only constant in the history of the Earth has been change. The Mediterranean almost dried up a few million years ago. Our predecessors lived in a Sahara desert that was everything but a sandy wasteland, until the construction of the pyramids. It was between 11,000 and 5,000 years ago that lakes and plants covered the Sahara.
The Nile River watershed saw its worst drought in 500 years during the 1980s. In certain parts of Sudan, the drought caused the Nile to totally dry up. The river’s flow reached its lowest point in over a century. Some worry that the Nile may fill back up to levels observed in the 1980s if GERD is filled in.
According to a U.S. National Institute of Health study, the cumulative effect of the system’s numerous vulnerabilities will make droughts in the Nile River Basin worse in the future. Certain dangers, like the impact of an intensified El Niño and the Indian Ocean dipole, are uncontrollable by humans.
The Nile River has withstood droughts for 30 million years, which have wiped out civilizations along its banks. Hope is inspired by the river’s unwavering resilience and its capacity to overcome the threats it faces today. Even while not all of the Nile’s issues are caused by humans, humans can nevertheless relieve the river of the strain that careless use has placed on it. The most promising understanding of all is that people can potentially help this 4,000-mile-long oasis in the desert.