Thursday June 28 2:07 PM ET

Thursday June 28 2:07 PM ET


  Donors Pledge $140 Million for Nile Basin Projects


  By Stephanie Nebehay


  GENEVA (Reuters) - Donor countries have pledged $140 million to combat environmental

  degradation and boost both farm output and power generation in the Nile Basin shared by 10

  countries, officials said on Thursday.


  The grants for initial projects should pave the way toward financing a three billion dollar investment

  program along the world's longest river within five years, a final statement said.


  The three-day talks in Geneva -- the first between donors, aid agencies and the 10 Nile Basin

  countries -- come amid a ``new unprecedented era of cooperation'' in the region, which comprises

  war-torn Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (news - web sites).


  The talks, sponsored by the World Bank (news - web sites) and Nile Basin Initiative set up in 1999,

  were attended by ministers from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia,

  Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.


  ``The $140 million was pledged by about 12 donors,'' Jean-Louis Sarbib, World Bank vice-president

  of the Africa region, told a news conference. ``It's a remarkable achievement.''


  ``They also got some very strong indications that once the investment programs are ready -- the first

  phase of it is three billion dollars -- they will also be met favorably by financial sources, whether they

  are public or private,'' Sarbib added.


  Britain, Canada, Germany, and the Nordic countries were among countries pledging firm donations,

  while France, Japan and the United States signaled support but said they had to finalize their budgets

  first, according to officials.


  About 160 million people live within the boundaries of the basin, while roughly 300 million depend on

  Nile waters. But the Nile Basin is hit by poverty, instability, rapid population growth, environmental

  degradation and falling food output.


  ``There is a certain sense of urgency to getting the program under way,'' said Callisto Madavo, World

  Bank vice president of the Africa region.


  ``Our expectation is that we would be working with the countries to prepare these projects and to

  carry them out meeting the highest standards in terms of environmental requirements, social impact and

  ensuring the benefits that are going to derive are shared by all segments of society,'' he said.


  Sarbib said the World Bank planned to submit Nile Basin projects worth $27 million to the Global

  Environment Facility.


  ``Over time, the contribution of the World Bank to the Initiative will be hundreds of millions of dollars,

  if not more,'' he said.


  Kamal Ali Mohamed, Sudan's minister of irrigation and water resources, who chaired the talks, said

  the countries along the Nile were stepping up cooperation despite internal conflicts.


  ``The 10 countries, despite some troubles here and there, were determined both at the technical and

  political level to enhance this cooperation.''