Civic Engagement & the Management of Water Resources: From the Nile to the Hudson

“The Nile Project is transforming the Nile conflict by inspiring, educating, and empowering an international network of university students to cultivate the sustainability of their ecosystem. The project’s model integrates music, education, dialogue, leadership, and innovation to engage students across disciplines and geographies.”

The smiles of the Nile Projects co-founders Mina Girgis and Meklit Hadero right after the musicians have all introduced themselves and their instruments.






NATURE Lab (North Troy Art, Technology and Urban Research in Ecology) presents:

3:00 Civic Engagement & Management of Water Resources





3:45 Capital Region Citizen Action Interactive Discussion, including:

  Chris Bowser, Science Educator Specialist, Hudson River Estuary Program, NY State DEC

  Andrew Kreshik, Assistant Planner, City of Troy, Project Manager for Ingalls Ave. Boat Launch project

  Scott Kellogg, Radix Ecological Sustainabiilty Center, Citizen-based aquatic remediation

• Alex Briggs, speaking in support of Maria Girouard of the Penobscot Nation in Maine as well as Public Labs

Natalie Yap, BS in Sustainability Studies and Design, Innovation and Society, Class of 2017, Vasudha Living & Learning Community Program Assistant, RPI

Co-sponsored by the Vasudha Living & Learning Community at Rensselaer, the Art, Community Technology course of the Arts Department, HASS, and Transition Troy.


This discussion of water resources management will feature Mina Girgis, founder of the Nile Project and students and organizers from the Capital Region. The panel discussion will focus on how political boundaries and cultural practices impact sustainability efforts.

Human life depends on the availability and quality of water to sustain our health, grow our food, power our homes with electricity and stimulate our economies.

However, due to overpopulation, increased demand for food, climate change and pollution, as much as two-thirds of the world’s citizens may face water-stressed conditions severely impacting the living and economic conditions of communities, countries and regions by 2025. Without water, we cannot survive.

How can we, as individuals, become more involved in the management of this precious and limited resource? Using the Nile Basin and the Hudson Rivere as regional and local case studies, a panel of experts and Nile Project founder Mina Girgis will explore the use of innovative civic engagement strategies to overcome political stakeholder barriers, create a common understanding between competing interests and build constituencies for action both between and within nations where water has become an impediment to peace and socio-economic development.

River sustainability is a cause near to the heart of the Nile Project’s performers — as well as their music. “On Saturday, March 21st, we will hold a workshop about civic engagement and water resource management in partnership with The Sanctuary for Independent Media and groups along the Hudson River, exploring how we can help our Nile and Hudson ecosystems,” says Mina Girgis, Nile Project executive director.

The Nile Project uses these cross-cultural musical collaborations to inspire its audiences to see the Nile as one ecosystem. But the project’s goal goes far beyond the concert hall. We’re hoping the music drives cultural and environmental curiosity, and the curiosity drives learning and systemic thinking, and the resulting understanding [will] drive action — to help each and everyone who interacts with the project to see how they can become a Nile citizen by using their skills to contribute to the Nile’s sustainability. 

More about the panelists:

Mina Girgis is an ethnomusicologist and entrepreneur who specializes in curating and producing innovative musical collaborations across diverse styles. Relying on his background in hospitality, Mina explores new ways to design environments conducive to learning, making, and experiencing music. In 2009, he founded Zambaleta, a nonprofit community World Music school based in San Francisco. In 2011, Mina created the Nile Project – an initiative to inspire, educate and empower university students to work together to foster the sustainability of the Nile ecosystem. Mina is a Creative Community Fellow.

Mannajo Greene and Pete Seeger

Manna Jo Greene iManna Jo Greene, Clearwater’s Environmental Action Director since 2000, was formerly the Recycling Coordinator/Educator for the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency for more than 10 years and a registered Critical Care Nurse for 22 years. She holds an AAS in Nursing, a BA in biology (pre-med) from SUNY/New Paltz, and completed course work toward a Masters in Environmental Sciences at Bard College. A lifelong environmental professional and community activist, Manna avidly supports collaborative land use planning and problem solving. Working to promote sustainable agriculture and green building and landscaping practices, she teaches communities how to integrate environmental preservation, economic prosperity (based on quality of life indicators), and social equity using effective communication. Manna also serves as Ulster County Legislator from District 19, Towns of Rosendale and Marbletown.

Clearwater was founded by Pete Seeger, legendary musician, singer, songwriter, folklorist, activist, environmentalist, and peace advocate, and one of the most influential people of the twentieth century. In 1966, in despair over the pollution of his beloved Hudson River, Seeger announced plans to “build a boat to save the river.”

Today, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. and the iconic sloopClearwater are carrying forward Pete Seeger’s legacy by partnering with Hudson Valley schools and community leaders to raise the bar of environmental education and encouraging youth to become involved as active stewards of their environment and the Hudson River. Through the organization’s  multiple environmental education programs, youth empowerment programs, environmental action campaigns, Green Cities initiatives, and unique approach to public outreach, the sloop Clearwateris recognized as a symbol of grassroots action through hands-on learning, music, and celebration.

Maureen Cunningham is Director of the Hudson River Watershed Alliance, whose mission is to protect, conserve and restore the water resources of the Hudson River Basin and its watersheds.  Maureen’s training includes a Master of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from The American University School of International Service, and she speaks Spanish and French.  After working internationally, she is now involved in local projects at the Hudson River Watershed Alliance and as a volunteer with the Friends of Five Rivers, the Town of Bethlehem Open Space and Bike/Pedestrian Committees and various youth activities in Delmar. 

The following are some (not all) of the active groups in the Hudson River Watershed: Battenkill Watershed Alliance, Bronx River Alliance, Casperkill Watershed Alliance, Catskill Creek Watershed Awareness Project, Hoosic River Watershed Association, Falkill Watershed Committee, Fishkill Creek Watershed Association, Friends of the Great Swamp, Friends of the Kayaderosseras, Greater Stockport Creek Watershed Alliance, Lower Esopus Watershed Partnership, Mohawk River Watershed Coalition, Moodna Creek Watershed Intermunicipal Council, Northern Dutchess Streams Alliance, Quassaick Creek Watershed Alliance,  Sparkill Watershed Alliance, Wappinger Creek Watershed Intermunicipal Council.  There are also new groups being formed in Coeymans Creek, Rondout Creek, Wallkill River, Pocantico River and others.

Dr. Katherine Meierdiercks is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Siena College, Loudonville NY, where she teaches courses in watershed management, environmental field techniques, environmental research methods, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  She received her B.S. in Civil Engineering from Tufts University and her Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Princeton University.  Dr. Meierdiercks’s research examines the heterogeneities of development patternsin small urban watersheds and the impact of those development patterns on flooding.  For the past several years, she and her students have been collecting field data and doing GIS mapping in the Kromma Kill watershed, a tributary to the Hudson River.

Chris Bowser is Science Education Specialist of the Hudson River Estuary Program, NY DEC, helping people enjoy, protect & revitalize the Hudson River & its valley.

The Hudson River Eel Project began in 2008 with two sites, the Fall Kill in Poughkeepsie and Crum Elbow Creek in Hyde Park. By 2014 the project expanded to ten sites, ranging from New York City to Albany County, with over 500 volunteers lending a hand and learning a thing or two. Over its seven year lifetime, the Eel Project has caught, counted, and released over 200,000 glass eels, helping these animals access better habitat.

Andrew Kreshik is the Assistant Planner for the City of Troy, and Project Mangager for the Ingalls Ave. Boat Launch. This 3.85-acre site, located at the corner of President Street and Ingalls Avenue, is a high priority site owned by the City of Troy. It is situated just south of the Federal Lock, and has 500ft of Hudson River frontage.

The City purchased the property in 2006 using NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation funds. The City plans to use the land as a public park on the Hudson River for Troy’s North Central Neighborhood. The park will provide better access to the Hudson River and will meet some expressed needs in this neighborhood. The park will feature a boat launch, comfort station for boaters and parking for 30 boat trailers.. Also, the proposed site plan recommends landscaping with native plants and interpretive signs illustrating Troy’s rich history.

The site was most recently used as a junkyard for 30+ years. The objective of this project is to transform this site into a usable green space along the Hudson River. The investigation and remediation strategy will be completed so as to satisfy Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Health (DOH) standards for an active recreation area.

Scott Kellogg is the co-author of the book “Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A Do-it-Ourselves Guide” (South End Press) and the primary teacher of R.U.S.T. – The Regenerative Urban Sustainability Training, an intensive weekend workshop in urban ecological living skills that has been attended by over 700 people since it was first taught in 2006

Currently, Scott is the Educational Director at the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center, an urban environmental educational center in Albany, NY.  It is a demonstration of environmental technologies and sustainable micro industries applicable in today’s cities. ( ) Radix contains a solar heated bioshelter greenhouse that contains an integrated food production system involving fish, plants, rabbits, worms, chickens, ducks, silkworms, and black soldier flies.

Scott was also a co-founder of Austin, Texas’ Rhizome Collective, an urban sustainability education project, and worked as the director of its sustainability program from 2000-2009.

Scott is a graduate student in the Ph.D program of Science and Technology Studies at RPI.  He has a Masters in Environmental Science from Johns Hopkins University and is an appointed member of Albany’s Sustainability Advisory Committee to the Common Council and the chair of it’s urban agriculture subcommittee.  He has taught at numerous universities in the US, and has given numerous workshops and multi-part sustainability courses both nationally and internationally.

Alex Briggs is an Ecological Engineer based in Troy, NY. He was a primary organizer of this workshop.

Meet Natalie Yap, a yarn enthusiast, with background in needle crafts, baking, and upcyling projects. Her focus is to create projects with a practical function but continues to hold onto her creative juices. They are inspired by her want to reduce her negative environmental impact by using materials that tend to be considered ‘junk’.  When she isn’t contemplating on how to re-purpose half the items in her current-living quarters, whipping up a fresh pan of banana bread, or being actively involved in environmental clubs around campus, Natalie attends Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a sophomore studying Sustainability Studies and Product Design, constantly team-building, and eagerly looking forward to being an RA next term.

Special thanks: Agazit Abate, Education Coordinator, The Nile Project

NATURE Lab (North Troy Art, Technology and Urban Research in Ecology) uses arts as a seed to reclaim public space and build community.  Situated on a neglected block in Troy, NY, this living learning laboratory engages networks of artists and scientists, media makers and gardeners, community organizers and neighbors in collective actions stimulating environmental health and sustainability.

NATURE Lab integrates art, science, and technology in a series of community workshops, public art installations, and inter-regional arts and cultural exchanges. Artist teams will work with the community around issues of “curing” our local ecologies, environmental health and sustainability.



“Eco-Action in the Industrial Wasteland” is a project aimed at informing the local population about the dangers of swimming and fishing at Ingalls Ave Boat Launch and at collaborating with the City of Troy to get the area cleaned up. Did you know that Ingalls Ave. Boat Launch is called the EPICENTER for the brownfields in North Troy?

Last June, Bio-art in the Wasteland artist Brandon Ballengee joined us to lead eco-actions during the Freedom festival. We all went seining at Ingalls Ave. boat launch and learned about the Hudson River’s poor water quality in the area. So we decided to investigate further with the Ballengee’s and the Uptown Summer ‘Youth Change Makers’ help. Our neighborhood youth invited politicians, including Congressman Paul Tonko, to visit and take tours of our toxic shores. 

What did we found out?

 The Hudson, has a history of devastating pollution dating back to the Industrial Revolution. PCBs were commonly used as coolant fluids in transformers, capacitors and electric motors. Polychlorinated biphenyl is a synthetic organic chemical compound that contains chlorine and biphenyl. From 1947 to 1977, General Electrics manufacturing facilities located at Hudson Falls and Fort Edward discharged between 209,000-1,300,000 lbs of PCBs into the Hudson River. Other pollution issues that are impacting the Hudson include: sewage discharges, heavy metals, furans, dioxin, and various pesticides.