Egypt irrigation ministry reveals identity of Nile River invasive mystery plant

Ahram Online , Sunday 23 Jun 2024

Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation revealed on Saturday that the mysterious plant which appeared to be invading part of the Nile River in Damietta in a viral video that raised concerns was "Pistia" or “Nile Cabbage,” as commonly known.

Nile Cabbage
File Photo: Excavator carried on a boat used to remove the Nile Cabbage From Nile river.


In a statement on Saturday, the irrigation ministry expressed gratitude to all citizens who care about their country, the Nile River, and water resources, urging everyone to ensure accuracy before spreading unverified and non-scientific information.

The ministry revealed that the plants are Pistia, known as water lettuce, and have been monitored and studied since 2007 by the Canal Maintenance Institute of the National Water Research Centre.

According to the statement, water lettuce is common in northern Egypt. It is regularly removed alongside other aquatic plants such as water hyacinth as part of routine maintenance by the Nile Protection and Development Sector.

Recently, a video of the Nile Cabbage, recorded by a citizen, has gone viral on social media.

Its uploader claimed the spread of “billions of plants” in the Nile River, approximately two kilometres downstream from the Damietta Barrage.

In response to the video, a team from the Nile Protection and Development Sector and the National Water Research Centre inspected the site on Saturday, according to the irrigation ministry.

The team found that the plant density does not constitute a phenomenon but rather small patches among other aquatic plants.

The ministry said it deployed the necessary equipment to remove these limited clusters, adding that the Nile protection sector continues to monitor the river for any new plant clusters, promptly removing them as part of their daily duties.

It also announced initiating a study in collaboration with a local university to convert water hyacinth into agricultural compost, creating an economic benefit from these plants and reducing the financial burden on the state.

Additionally, the ministry’s Regional Training Centre is organizing workshops on handcrafts using water hyacinth and other plants, leveraging Asian expertise to produce economically valuable natural products.

Furthermore, the ministry said it welcomes any scientific studies or collaborations with universities and research centres to find innovative and safe disposal methods for these plants, such as biological methods, without affecting the ecological balance.

It also encouraged exploring more economic uses for these plants.

Pistia, a floating aquatic plant native to the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, is recognizable by its rosette of soft, velvety leaves.

It thrives in slow-moving or stagnant waters, forming dense mats that cover entire water surfaces.

This plant plays a significant ecological role by providing a habitat for aquatic organisms and contributing to water purification through nutrient absorption.

However, its rapid growth and spread can also lead to challenges, such as impeding water flow, reducing oxygen levels in water bodies, and impacting native plant species.

Despite its invasive potential, Pistia is also utilized in ornamental water gardens and studied for its phytoremediation capabilities, highlighting its complex and multifaceted nature.

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