Where Nile River

Many civilizations have existed, and have been built and supported by rivers. Among the most lauded is the Nile, a lifeline for the nations of Egypt and Sudan. Spanning over 6,500 kilometers, it is the longest river in the world and a catalyst for economic, agricultural and cultural development. Archaeological evidence suggests that it was first used by the ancient Egyptians some 7000 years ago, and since then it has provided a hefty source of fresh water and a transport corridor that enabled trading with nations and regions around the world. Few rivers can match the impact the Nile has had on history and the modern world.

The river is fed by two major tributaries, the White Nile – sourced in the mountains of Burundi – and the Blue Nile sourced in Ethiopia. The White Nile is the longer tributary and contributes 80%. The rest of the water comes from the Blue Nile and other smaller tributaries. The catchment covers an area of 3 million km2, making it the world’s largest. The total amount of water flowing in the river varies greatly but typically ranges between 300 and 500 km3 per year. On average, the river discharges a little under 20,000 m3 of water per second at the Mediterranean Sea.

The Nile’s impact on the People of Egypt and Sudan is especially vast. For centuries, the river has been used to transport goods, enable trade and act as a water source for irrigation and industry. Despite the constant fluctuations in the river’s natural flow, the civilization originated along its banks. One of Egypt’s main exports — cotton — is largely grown along the Nile. Egypt supplies much of the food and resources to Sudan, which has become heavily dependent on Egypt’s resources.

The human population of Egypt is around 100 million and is the largest in the Nile River Valley. This means that the cities on the Nile banks are some of the most populous in the world, mostly on the eastern and north-eastern part of the river, with Giza and Cairo being the most populous cities with a population of around 18 million and 15 million respectively. As the river sustains life, it also brings presents a unique set of challenges due to the vital role it plays. Factors such as overcrowding, pollution, poverty, and unreliable access to resources are just some of the threats to the population of the Nile.

One of the main threats to the Nile is the damming and irrigation systems. While many of these projects have proven to be beneficial for the people, their reliance on hydroelectric energy sources have begun to strain the river. Major diversions of the river’s water threaten the ecosystems and the habitats of numerous species residing along the banks of the Nile. As the demand for freshwater increases, so do the efforts of governments to harness more water — despite the potential environmental damage caused by these projects.

The Nile has also been a source of tension between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan over the ownership and utilization of the world’s longest waterway. The Nile River Treaty was signed in 1959 by Egypt and Sudan to settle the issues of ownership and usage of the Nile water. It enshrined Egypt with a prior right over the Nile waters and allowed Egypt to use the waters of both of the Nile’s two main tributaries — the White Nile and the Blue Nile. Ethiopia has since rejected the treaty and disputes its binding nature due to its exclusion from the negotiations which led to the agreement.

Constant Change

In recent years, climate change has also brought its toll upon the Nile. The effects of global warming have been felt in the form of unpredictable and irregular rain seasons, provoking the river to rise and flood even more dangerously than usual. The severity of these floods has caused many mass displacement of people and destruction of local infrastructure. To reduce some of the harms associated with these events, regular monitoring of the rainfall and warning systems have been operationalized in several parts of the river.

The Economy of the Nile

The River plays a key role in the countries it passes through and supports both Sudan and Egypt’s economy. Egypt relies heavily on the river for both fishing and irrigation of its large agricultural industry. The Nile also encourages tourism: its unique landscapes and fauna attract visitors from all around the world. As a result, tourism is one of the main sources of income for both countries. The Nile waters are also used for industrialisation, for producing energy and for recreational activities. Additionally, the river serves as a main trading route for both countries.

Conservation Efforts

Various NGOs, organisations, and governments are working towards preserving the long-term environmental health of the River. This includes regular water quality and quantity surveillance, as well as efforts to reduce further pollution and destruction of the natural habitats that are found alongside the river. Additionally, several organisations work towards protecting species which call the river home and encouraging “green” industries that are beneficial for the environment and prosper even on small or temporary water sources.

The Impact of the Nile

Throughout the millennia, the mighty Nile has been one of the most prominent factors in the rise of civilization and remains instrumental for the development of Sudan and Egypt. Even when facing various threats, the River is still a major source of transportation, resources, and energy for both countries, as well as a provider of UNESCO-protected natural landscapes. It stands at the heart of history and the modern world alike, with no contemporary river coming close in terms of scale and effect.

The Future of the Nile

The implications of climate change, coupled with the ongoing development of the countries involved, could have an immense and potentially negative impact on the river. In recent years, the countries’ increasing populations, rapid industrialization, and pollution have put the rivers future in jeopardy. To continue to successfully provide resources to the two nation’s populations, governments, NGOs, and campaigners need to unite and set goals of introducing efficient farming practices that promote sustainable use of the water, and aim to reduce pollution and over-development of the rivers banks.

The People of the Nile

The River is not only important for the Egyptian and Sudanese economy, but also a fundamental component of the culture. Aspects of their national identity are intertwined with the River, and the culture flourished along its banks. The religions of both countries use the Symbol of the Nile in their spiritual imagery and iconography — and many believe that without the Nile’s influence, the cultures and history of these two countries would be completely different.


It is clear that the Nile is a source of life, culture, and economy for these two countries. Its long and illustrious history, made it one of the most significant rivers of all times, and it continues to shape their civilizations in innumerable ways. The importance of the Nile should not be taken lightly, and its conservation and protection must be part of both countries’ development plans if they are to continue to benefit from this powerful resource.

Raymond Strasser is a passion-driven writer and researcher, dedicated to educating readers on the topic of world rivers. With a background in Geography and Environmental Studies, Raymond provides insightful pieces which explore the impact and importance that rivers have around the world.

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