Lake Victoria, the largest water body on the continent and a bed of many ships, boats and industrial discharges, could be contaminated with six types of metallic concentration of chemicals.
This came to light from a recent study of the Nile Delta which discovered a thick concentration of heavy metals in its outflow from the main River Nile.
From the study findings in Egypt, experts in East Africa are now also convinced that Lake Victoria, which is the main reservoir for the main River Nile could be hoarding a concentration of as many metals as those found in the delta, or more.
Sediment measurements show that flow alterations and discharges are driving increasing concentrations of multiple heavy metals in the Nile Delta, threatening ecosystems, agriculture, and human health.
The study was conducted by Abotalib Z. Abotalib, Ahmed A. Abdelhady, Essam Heggy, Salem G. Salem, Esam Ismail, Ahmed Ali and Mahmoud M. Khalil.
According to researchers, the Nile Delta is densely populated, hosts extensive agriculture, and serves as a critical wetland habitat for multiple species including migrating birds.
An excerpt from the study report however indicates that the metal concentration in the Nile Delta could be a problem born in Misr.
In fact even the study report title ‘Irreversible and Large-Scale Heavy Metal Pollution Arising From Increased Damming and Untreated Water Reuse in the Nile Delta,’ points towards that.
Egypt observes one of the highest water budget deficits in Africa that is mainly compensated by intensive reuse of untreated agricultural drainage water in the Nile Delta.
“The implications of untreated water reuse on increasing soil pollution levels remain poorly characterized; however, large-scale pollution can compromise crop production and water quality,” researchers maintain.
Water management in the region includes extensive water reuse and discharge of agricultural, domestic, and industrial wastewaters, which can drive accumulation of potentially toxic heavy metals in Nile Delta sediments.
Researchers collected sediments from twenty locations along the two branches of the Nile River in the Delta region and analyzed the samples for eight heavy metals.
The metals include lead, cadmium, chromium, zinc, nickel, and copper.
The heavy metal concentration in the Nile Delta as well as the associated estuaries, were locally examined using geochemical, lithological and faunal analyses.
Their analysis found high levels of multiple metals, with concentrations increasing northward toward the mouth of the Nile. Comparisons with previous measurements indicated that heavy metal concentrations were also increasing over time.
The authors argue that continuing increases in heavy metal concentrations in Nile Delta sediments could threaten human health, the agricultural economy, and ecological function in the Nile Delta.
They also suggest that water and soil quality considerations should be included in regional and international water use plans.