afrol News, 18 April - The Saharan country of Mauritania yesterday signed an aid agreement providing safe drinking water to the growing population of its capital, Nouakchott. The French cooperation agency is to continue its bottling and transport operations.
According to the Mauritanian news agency AMI, the Mauritanian Human Rights Commission, the Commission for the Fight against Poverty and the French cooperation agency yesterday signed an agreement providing the continued aid for the distribution of clean and safe water to the Mauritanian capital. The Nouakchott police chief - his department is involved in the local distribution of water - was also present at the signing of the document.
Nouakchott is localised in a semi-desert area and cannot provide its rapidly growing population with clean water from local reservoirs. Water, delivered at symbolic prices, has come from inland sources. Its bottling and transport is heavily subsidised by the French government.
The French agency will continue to fill water in plastic tanks and transport it to Nouakchott. Here, the annual 860 barrels of water are distributed at around fifty public "fountain" installations, overseen by city police. This distribution of clean drinking water is seen as an important public health issue in the capital, were other water sources are of poor quality.
Nouakchott and the outlying town of Birmougrein at occasions also receive their drinking water from abroad. In November last year, ten drinking water trucks were shipped from England to Mauritania in a humanitarian action.
Once located in grassy fertile plains, rolling sand dunes now surround Nouakchott and Birmougrein. In recent years as the desert continues to expand southwards it has led to an exodus of nomads into urban areas looking for food and water consequently placing a huge strain on resources.
Eighty percent of Mauritania lies within the Sahara and experiences extremes in temperature and insufficient, sporadic rainfall. Years of drought combined with water shortages and a high population growth have exacerbated this problem. Daytime temperatures in much of the country reach 38°C with annual rainfall less than 130 mm.
Stable water sources in Mauritania are only related to aquifers contained in rock formations in the interior, exploiting water reservoirs built up decades ago - or thousands of years ago - when climatic conditions were different.