Egypt invested EGP 16 bln in water rationalisation, management projects in 2021: Report

Ahram Online , Wednesday 29 Dec 2021

Egypt's Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources invested EGP 16 billion in 2021 in water projects across the country, which is deemed one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, to rationalise water use and create water additional resources.

High Dam
A general view of the High Dam in Aswan, Egypt February 19, 2020. REUTERS

Over the year, the ministry invested EGP 1.2 billion in groundwater and rainwater harvesting-based ventures, utilising some 6.2 billion cubic metres of surface water and 4.4 billion cubic metres of groundwater, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Cabinet Media Centre.

Up to 75 water wells have been drilled, or renewed, 100 solar powered wells created, and some 300,000 feddans reclaimed as part of land reclamation efforts in the country's desert hinterland, according to the report.

The ministry during the year also established 139 dams and artificial lakes to trap rains water and increase the capacity of rainwater reservoirs to accommodate up to 10 million cubic metres.

It also has completed the renovation and lining of 3,539km of irrigation canals nationwide, the cabinet's report said, adding that work is under way to rehabilitate more canals extending over 4,375km.

A canal after undergoing renovation as part of Egypt's canal renovation and lining project. Monday 8 November 2021.

The canal renovation project aims to improve the management and distribution of water and to rationalise the use of water resources, one of the goals of Egypt’s national water resources strategy, which is intended to resolve Egypt's water-related issues by the year 2037, according to previous statements by ministry officials.

The cabinet report added that the ministry has spent nearly EGP 90 million on the development of irrigation systems to serve over 13,000 feddans nationwide.

It has also earmarked EGP 664 million for upgrading 50 water-lifting stations and EGP 1.9 billion for modernising agricultural subsurface drainage networks to serve slightly more than 63,000 feddans countrywide.

The ministry, in parallel with the project to rehabilitate and line water canals, has been encouraging farmers to adopt modern irrigation techniques instead of surface irrigation to reduce water consumption, according to previous statements by the minister, who has pointed out that some 237,000 feddans are irrigated with modern techniques.

Egypt needs 114 billion cubic metres (bcm) annually to fulfil its water needs, but it receives an average of 60 bcm only, mainly from the Nile given the very limited amounts of rainwater and groundwater in the desert.

Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Ati has stressed earlier that Egypt, which is one of the driest countries in the world, overcomes its large gap in water resources by importing 54 percent of its virtual water and reusing 42 percent of its renewable.

Virtual water – which is the embedded water required to produce commodities – is measured as a percentage of the already existing water resources, and is increasingly recommended as a good policy for water-scarce areas.

For Egyptian coasts and beaches, the ministry allocated EGP 686 million to develop and further protect coasts and beaches in Alexandria, Kafr El-Sheikh, Damietta, Beheira and Matrouh, according to the cabinet report.

The minister has warned of the adverse effect of climate change on the Nile Delta, as the rise in sea levels makes it one of the world’s prime candidates for drowning and decreasing fertility.

“Climate change also adversely affects water quality, threatens sustainable development, and consequently people's right to access water,” he said.

With a total cost of EGP 278 million, the ministry has carried out projects to protect the Nile River, which includes campaigns to remove the encroachments along the Nile, the report said.

The cabinet also indicated that the ministry has allocated EGP 157 million to renew and develop the Aswan High Dam’s facilities.

The ministry, according to the Cabinet's report, has carried out development projects in North Sinai, investing around EGP 2.3 billion to complete the governorate's infrastructure, including setting up subsurface drainage network to serve up to 6,000 feddans in the southern areas of the Qantara East region, as well as installing public irrigation networks to cover 5,941 feddans.

Up to EGP 3.2 billion has also been spent to complete the implementation of the Sheikh Zayed Canal in South Wadi (Toshka).

Egypt’s annual share of water is 560 m3 per person, placing the country well below the international threshold for water scarcity.

When annual water supplies drop below 1,000 m3 per person, according to the UN, the population faces water scarcity, and below 500 cubic metres is "absolute scarcity."

The country’s population, estimated at over 102 million, is expected to increase by 75 million by 2050, which will add more pressure on Egypt’s water resources, he noted.

Egypt has drawn up a strategy for its water resources until 2050, at a cost of up to EGP 900 billion, according to previous remarks by Abel-Ati.

The country has also developed a four-pronged National Water Resources Plan, running through 2037 and based on rationalising water use, improving water quality, providing additional water resources, and creating a climate suitable for optimal water management, the minister added.

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