“We must worry,” Mohamed Abdel-Aati, minister of water resources and irrigation, said while marking World Water Day (WWD) this week. “Worry motivates us to work to save water.”
In his address, Abdel-Aati said an Egyptian’s share of water has decreased from 6,000 cubic metres per capita in 1870 when the population was only 10 million to 600 cubic metres today after the population reached 100 million.
He also underlined increased consumption on the back of rising temperature as a result of climate change.
WWD is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of fresh water and advocating for the sustainable management of fresh water resources. In recognition of WWD, the Pyramids, Qanater Al-Khairiya and Salaheddin Citadel in Taba, Sinai, were lit in blue.
To help Egypt save water, the European Union Ambassador to Egypt Ivan Surkoš announced that the EU will be launching a multi-annual flagship programme in Egypt, #EU4WATER, with a budget of up to 120 million euros in grants.
This EU-funded programme aims to enhance water security and sustainable management. Surkoš said he hopes the programme’s financing agreement is reached during the summer and that implementation starts before the end of the year.
According to Surkoš, cooperation between the EU and Egypt on water includes programmes covering 12 Egyptian governorates. These aim to improve the lives of 15 million Egyptians, targeting the less fortunate and most in need, Surkoš said.
Water in Egypt is one of the country’s top priorities, stressed Abdel-Aati, adding that all ministries and relevant governmental institutions, in cooperation with partners such as the EU, must cooperate to implement the National Water Resources Plan (NWRP).
The plan has four goals: improving water quality, enhancing the management of water use, enhancing the availability of fresh water resources and improving the environment for integrated water resources management.
According to Abdel-Aati, his ministry has a strategy in place until 2050 to manage the changes affecting the water sector and accordingly enhance Egypt’s water security, meet the requirements of all economic sectors and achieve the objectives of sustainable development in accordance with Egypt’s 2030 vision.
For example, he said experiments are being made to plant rice using drip irrigation, and planting wheat using salt water.
Abdel-Aati stressed the importance of Egypt’s cooperation with its partners in the Nile Basin so that its share of the River Nile water will not decrease. He said sewage treatment without using energy “is going to be Egypt’s gift to our African friends”.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 March, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Water worries