A general view shows the River Nile with houses and farmland in Cairo, Egypt November 6, 2019. REUTERS
The head of the Irrigation Department at the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources Abdel-Latif Khaled has said that the flow of Nile water is “very promising” for Egypt this year, and the annual flood is set to be high, so “very special” preparations have been made.
The annual Nile flood takes place in August, September and October, and is caused by heavy rain in the Ethiopian highlands.
Preparations have been made to avoid the destruction that has taken place in some neighbouring countries, Khaled said on Sunday morning.
Dozens of people have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced in Sudan and South Sudan amid heavy rains and flash floods. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said earlier in a Tweet that the Nile has recorded its highest water level since 1912.
Khaled referred to the role of Egypt’s Aswan High Dam in containing excess water during floods, calling it the “safeguard” of the nation. The massive decades-old dam in Upper Egypt retains water that reaches the country from Ethiopia by way of Sudan.
Khaled said the annual floods start in late July/early August. The ministry disposes of excess water collected in the Aswan Dam’s Lake Nasser reservoir after floods so that it does not damage the dam. The excess water is utilised for many purposes, including securing water needs, washing Nile waterways and getting rid of pollution and ammonia, he added.
A crisis department at the High Aswan Dam Authority continuously follows up on the situation of the annual flood, Khaled said, adding that people can breathe easy by mid-October.
Concerning preparations, Khaled said the Irrigation Department has three sectors working on avoiding the consequences of heavy rains, including the irrigation sector, which is tasked with cleaning 117 water drains, which transfer water to Upper Egypt, before mid-September. He affirmed that this goal has been fulfilled this year.
The groundwater sector of the department is concerned with the Red Sea governorate and South Sinai governorate, Khaled said.
This sector works on protecting villages and cities there by building dam-like structures between mountains, which protect people from the floods and form artificial lakes that can secure residents’ water needs throughout the year.
Earlier this month, several roads connecting parts of the Egyptian Red Sea coast with Upper Egypt were closed after torrential rains hit the south of the Red Sea governorate, which is known for its mountainous terrain. The flooding caused some damage but no deaths were reported.
Although many people in desert areas find torrential rains every year useful, as they can collect them in wells, dams and barriers to use in agriculture and for drinking, they can still be deadly.
In October 2016, torrential rains hit parts of southern and western Egypt, causing the death of 26 people, mainly in the Red Sea governorate and South Sinai, according to the health ministry. Some 35 others were injured.
In Cairo, widespread flooding in March this year caused by two days of heavy rain across Egypt killed at least 20 people, the cabinet said, explaining that such conditions had not been experienced in the country for 40 years.
This year’s preparations for the Nile flood have included efforts to remove illegal buildings along waterways, especially those along the Nile, as they hinder water networks’ ability to contain excess water. Authorities have also put in place a plan for the immediate evacuation of all buildings on land near the two branches of the river if water levels rise to a certain level.