This week’s mass die-off of fish in waters of Rasheed branch of the Nile has happened before, and will continue to happen if the water pollution in Egypt is not addressed by the Government and local authorities.
The exact source of this latest incident is unclear, despite the Commission of Fisheries identifying the cause as very high degrees of Ammonia, lead and other solids that caused the fish to be poisoned. Many news reports have offered different reasons , varying from industrial pollution of the Nile, fish-farm food polluting the water, lack of oxygen in the water to untreated sewage. Any or all of these could be contributing factors as the tragic reality of Egypt’s freshwater sources is such that water pollution is one of Egypt’s biggest sources of health, environmental and livelihood (employment) problems, in the short and long term. The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights recognizes that Egyptians right to a clean source of water and adequate sanitation infrastructure is being violated as a result.
The regulatory laws protecting the waterways from water pollution generally remain unenforced, allowing unabated pollution by industrial facilities, agriculture and domestic sources of waste water. The impact of this lack of enforcement can be seen in the following figures:
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) 2008 report “Safer Water, Better Health” finds that 5.1% of all deaths and 6.5% of all disabilities (disease and injury) in a year in Egypt are attributable to unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, insufficient hygiene and an inadequate management of water resources. The majority of the 5.1% of deaths are caused by diarrhea and Schistosomiasis (another form of diarrhea).
- High and increasing rates of renal diseases and renal failure: roughly 30% of which are caused by Schistosomiasis. The highest rates of Schistosomiasis contributing to renal failure are in Lower and Upper Egypt : the areas with least access to safe drinking water and sufficient sewage treatment infrastructure. Public Health researchers based in El Minia identified Drinking unsafe water and exposure to pesticides as the cause of renal diseases for an estimated 72% of patients.
Incidents such as these will continue to happen until the Government starts to consistently enforce the pollution regulations, rather than investigating one off incidents as and when they occur.
The Ministry of Interior is responsible for enforcing the regulations against violations reported by the water testing labs, and as such is in violation of international agreements signed by Egypt to ensure the equal access of all Egyptians to a source of clean drinking water and a sustainable livelihood by failing to do so.
For more information on water pollution in Egypt, please read ECESR’s paper: Water Pollution in Egypt
 – Annual die off for lack of oxygen; Industrial pollution; Sewage; Blockage plus food from fish farms polluting the Lake; Same cause as one above is mixing with the drinking water of local village
 – Afifi and Karim, Renal Replacement in Egypt, 1996
 – http://numonthly.com/?page=article&article_id=819