Climate change poses challenges to achieving water security in Egypt: Minister

Amr Kandil , Tuesday 30 May 2023

Climate change and water scarcity pose challenges to achieving food security and meeting water needs in Egypt, according to Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Hani Sewilam.

Egypt's Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Hany Sewilam speaking at the event. Cabinet


Minister Sewilam's remarks came during an event hosted by the Arab Water Council, CEDARE and Egyptian Water Partnership in Cairo to address water and sanitation issues, a statement by the ministry said on Tuesday.

Climate change: Multiple challenges

Sewilam noted climate change poses challenges to global water security and food sustainability efforts.

Egypt tops the list of arid countries globally with minimal rainfall, he added.

Egypt's annual per capita water share of 500 cubic metres, placing the country in the internationally recognized water poverty range, he highlighted.

The minister also noted that climate change effects in Egypt, including temperature rise and reduced rainfall, contribute to the problem.

He explained that Egypt is affected by climate change in the entire Nile Basin, as the last downstream country on the Nile River.

Securing water resources

Sewilam noted Egypt's heavy reliance on the Nile River, which provides about 97 percent of the country's renewable water supplies.

Over 75 percent of Egypt's water resources are used for agricultural production, supporting over 50 percent of the population, he said.

There are growing challenges in securing water needs, particularly in countries like Egypt, due to population growth, the minister stressed.

Egypt's population has quadrupled since the 1960s, reaching 104.9 million, while water resources have remained the same, he emphasized.

Renewable alternatives

Egypt has adopted a water policy that emphasizes rational and efficient use of renewable water resources, with a growing reliance on non-conventional sources, amid these challenges, Sweilam explained.

Egypt also plans to rely more on water reuse and desalination, support the blue economy, and increase water use efficiency and crop productivity to reduce imports, he said.

The country has invested in mega projects, including wastewater treatment plants, canal lining, and modern irrigation systems, to secure water needs and achieve food security, the minister added.

Facing GERD challenges

Egypt launched the AWARe initiative during COP27 to implement climate change adaptation projects in developing nations, especially African countries.

Egypt has been implementing national water projects amid tensions with Ethiopia over the unilateral management of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which may affect Egypt's Nile water share of 55 billion cubic metres per year.

Egypt has maintained the need for a legally-binding deal between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia on GERD, which would safeguard the interests of all three sides.

“Egypt, as the world’s driest country, cannot afford to bear any water shortage at any time," according to recent statements by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

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