Climate change, limited water resources pose many challenges for Egypt: Minister

MENA , Ahram Online , Wednesday 31 Aug 2022

Limited water resources and the adverse effects of climate change pose many challenges to Egypt, newly-appointed Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Hani Sewilam said at the 2022 World Water Week (WWW) in Stockholm, Sweden on Tuesday.

Irrigation and Water Resources minister Hany Sweilam attending the World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden.


“The per capita share of water in Egypt is 560 cubic metres per annum, nearly half the international threshold for water poverty,” Sewilam noted during a discussion session at the event.

He said the negative impacts of climate change, such as extreme heat, rising sea levels, and increased groundwater salinity, have prompted Egypt to make water-related issues a top priority on its climate action agenda, according to a statement by the ministry.

This will be demonstrated during the 5th Cairo Water Week slated for 6-19 October, or during the water-related events to be organised at the upcoming UN Climate Change summit (COP27), which will take place in November in Sharm El-Sheikh.

These events are intended to come up with a set of recommendations that help speed up adaptation and mitigation measures, draw up future plans for reducing harmful emissions, and secure necessary financing for adaptation and mitigation projects, the minister pointed out.

Sewilam also touched upon an international water initiative that Egypt will launch during COP27 in cooperation with many international partners to improve water use efficiency, rationalise water consumption and integrate the water and climate agendas.

Egypt depends on the Nile for 98 percent of its water needs, the minister said.

GERD impact on water supply

In recent years, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been of concern to Egypt, as the country fears the unilateral and quick filling and operation of the GERD will have a negative impact on its water supply.

Some 85 percent of the Nile’s waters in Egypt flow from the Ethiopian highlands through the Blue Nile – one of the Nile’s two main tributaries, along with the White Nile.

Egypt — which is considered one of the most water-scarce countries in the world — receives around 60 billion cubic metres (bcm) of water annually, mainly from the Nile. However, its needs stand at around 114 bcm, placing the 102-million-plus population country well below the international threshold for water scarcity.

Maximising use of water resources

The large gap in water resources in Egypt, which is one of the driest countries in the world, is overcome by importing 54 percent of its virtual water and reusing 42 percent of its renewable water, according to previous statements by the irrigation ministry.

Housing Minister Assem El-Gazzar said in 2020 that Egypt wants to invest some EGP 134.2 billion through 2050 to build seawater-desalination plants with a capacity of 6.4 million cubic metres per day of potable water.

As many as 82 water desalination plants were established in recent years with a combined capacity of 917,000 cubic meters.

In September 2021, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi inaugurated the water treatment plant of Bahr Al-Baqar, the largest of its kind worldwide, at a cost of EGP 20 billion and with a production capacity of 5.6 million cubic metres per day.

Tuesday’s WWW session was themed ‘Harnessing Global Development Agendas on the Road to 2023’ and was attended by Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria Ingrid.

Under the theme ‘Seeing the Unseen: The Value of Water,’ WWW 2022 kicked off on 23 August and is set to wrap on Thursday.

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