Speakers at Cairo Water Week's Meeting of Development Partners held in Cairo on Thursday, including Minister of Irrigation Hany Sewilam and Christian Berger, head of the European Union Delegation to Egypt. Photo courtesy of EU Delegation in Egypt
The annual event aims to spread awareness on water issues and promote innovation to face the most pressing water-related challenges.
Christian Berger, head of the European Union delegation to Egypt, said that the CWW 2023 will be a follow-up to two recent important global events. These are the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) held in Sharm El-Sheikh in November and the UN 2023 Water Conference held in New York in March, where water was put for the first time in the heart of climate action.
Water is essential for human existence and the health of ecosystems, economic growth and the sustainability of our societies, Berger said. However, water management and conservation challenges are becoming increasingly complex and urgent, he added.
"The CWW became the focus of attention and the main and largest water event in Egypt and in the Middle East. Thus, it has gained the interest and support of all water stakeholders at all levels," Berger said.
He added that the event provides a platform for stakeholders worldwide to share knowledge, exchange experience and collaborate to solve water-related challenges. It also offers the opportunity to showcase successful water management practices, technologies and policies that can be replicated in different contexts.
"As we launch the Cairo Water Week 2023, we recognize the critical role of collective action and collaboration to address the water challenges we face. We must work together to find innovative solutions that balance the needs of people, the environment, and economies," Berger stated.
The European Union (EU) is partnering with Egypt's Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources on a strategic level and has been involved since the beginning of 2018, as the water sector is a top priority for the EU.
The 2022 edition of CWW, organised in mid-October under the theme “Water at the Heart of Climate Action,” was held under the auspices of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and by the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources and the European Union’s delegation to Egypt.
During the Development Partners meeting on Thursday, Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Hany Sewilam said that the EU has been a strategic partner since the establishment of CWW. He expressed hope that the partnership would continue, along with other partners, donors and international funding agencies.
The EU has provided Egypt with more than €550 million in grants since 2007 to help it overcome its water challenges, according to a statement by Berger in March.
Sewilam noted that CWW has become a milestone in the international water agenda. The event has a special character as it brings together senior officials from countries around the world, international and regional organizations; university professors, students and graduates; scientists, specialists and farmers.
"CWW has [also] become an important platform for Africa as well to raise Africa's voice to the international community, especially with the various challenges facing the water sector worldwide as a result of water scarcity and climate change," Sewilam said.
Water scarcity in Egypt ‘unique’ globally
According to Sewilam, climate change and water scarcity pose challenges to achieving food security and meeting water needs in Egypt.
Egypt suffers from water scarcity that is unique internationally, Sewliam said previously during the UN 2023 Water Conference.
Egypt tops the list of arid countries, with one of the lowest rainfall rates globally.
Egypt’s annual water share is 500 cubic metres per person annually at a time when the United Nations defines water scarcity as twice that quantity.
This is even worse considering agriculture is the livelihood for more than 50 percent of the country’s population, the minister noted.
He highlighted that Egypt has a water deficit of 120 billion cubic metres, or about 55 percent of its water needs.
“Egypt is making huge investments to raise the efficiency of its water system, which exceeded $10 billion during the previous five-year plan. However, it also reuses water several times in this framework and is forced to trade in huge food imports worth about $15 billion,” Sewilam said.
On Thursday, Egypt signed with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) three agreements on water consumption rationalization projects financed by the Netherlands and Japan.