English (UK)

The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) officially handed over to the Uganda Ministry of Water and Environment groundwater project data management equipment worth $10,653 on July 6th 2022. This equipment will bolster efforts to bridge the knowledge gap that currently exists around groundwater in the Nile Basin.

The handover took place at the ministry offices in Kampala and in attendance was Hon. Sam Cheptoris, Minister of Water and Environment and Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM) member representing Uganda; Ms. Sheila Ngatia, the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative; Eng. Sylvester A. Matemu, NBI Secretariat’s Executive Director; staff from UNDP, NBI, and the ministry in addition to representatives from some of the media houses.

In her welcome remarks, Dr. Florence G. Adongo, the head of the Directorate of Water Resources Management in Uganda's Ministry of Water and Environment and Nile Technical Advisory Committee Member representing Uganda, explained that the aim of the groundwater project is to foster the utilisation and protection of shared aquifers as well as build capacity within the Nile Basin, adding that the benefits of sharing knowledge about this precious resource is one mechanism of enhancing cooperation within the Basin. Dr. Adongo emphasised that groundwater is an invisible resource and that there is a need to improve on the technology available to further understand this resource.

Eng. Sylvester A. Matemu, NBI Secretariat’s Executive Director, highlighted key issues that the Groundwater Project seeks to address and these include: the urgent need for sustainable abstraction and adequate management of groundwater in the Basin countries given the escalating demands for water; the need to raise awareness about the interaction between groundwater and surface water systems when considering transboundary river basin management initiatives; the need to understand that the threats transboundary aquifers face are more severe due to a lack of common groundwater governance and management mechanisms and; the importance of engaging stakeholders in a participatory manner since the socio-economic context in groundwater management for sustainable use and protection needs to be properly addressed.

Formally known as Enhancing Conjunctive Management of Surface and Groundwater Resources in Selected Transboundary Aquifers: Case Study for Selected Shared Groundwater Bodies in the Nile Basin, this five-year (2020-2025), $33-million project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through UNDP (in the amount of $5.3 million), while the remaining $27.9 million is co-financed by Nile Basin Member States and development partners. Its overall aim is to foster the effective utilisation and protection of selected aquifers in the Eastern Nile and the Nile Equatorial Lakes region. The project is being implemented in the following seven NBI Member States: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

In her remarks, the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Ms. Sheila Ngatia underscored the practical importance of the groundwater project, pointing out that this project will go a long way in bridging the information gap around groundwater and lead to the optimisation of the use of surface and groundwater. She also expressed pride in the longstanding history of cooperation and partnership between NBI, the Nile Basin Member States by extension, and UNDP – dating back to 1967.
On his part after formally receiving the data management equipment, Hon. Sam Cheptoris, Minister of Water and Environment and Nile-COM representative for Uganda, highlighted that the groundwater project is the first of its kind in the Nile Basin region to address issues from a transboundary perspective. He underscored how this intervention is both timely and critical to addressing existing institutional capacity gaps and enhancing understanding about transboundary groundwater, storage, recharge levels and the role it plays in supporting livelihoods within the basin.

It is important to note that all seven participating Nile Basin Member States in the groundwater project will receive data management equipment.