Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Ati urged the public to rationlise their water consumption to alleviate the challenges the country is facing, including the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Ethiopia reiterated its intention to start the second phase of filling the massive dam's reservoir this July despite the lack of a legally binding agreement with downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
Abdel-Ati, in remarks to Al-Ahram published on Sunday, slammed Ethiopia's unilateral actions regarding the filling and operation of the GERD, saying Egypt will not accept their grave implications which should be referred to the UN Water Day held annually on 22 March.
Egypt has recently welcomed a Sudanese proposal to form a quartet comprising the UN, the European Union, the US, and the African Union to mediate stalled talks on the GERD.
Egypt and Sudan demand that a legally binding agreement is reached before the second filling to secure their water interests and protect their peoples from the implications of filling the mega dam.
Abdel-Ati told Al-Ahram Egypt is facing many water challenges besides the GERD, including the increasing demand on water and climate change.
He noted that these challenges require Egyptians to rationalise their water consumption. Parliament, he added, is set to pass a host of legislation and the state is implementing several projects to preserve water.
The minister said parliament is scheduled to pass a new irrigation bill that bans all activities wasting water resources. These activities include throwing dust or clay in public waterways, storm drains and water networks, which may block them.
The new 131-article bill aims to improve the development and management of water resources and ensure the fair distribution of water, Abdel-Ati said.
The new bill also seeks to determine the areas allocated for agriculture and regulate irrigation and drainage works in new plots, the minister said. It also ensures that no lands are allocated for horizontal agricultural expansion unless approved by the irrigation ministry.
Abdel-Ati spoke about the state project to line water canals. The first phase of the project aims to rehabilitate 7,000 kilometres of water canals and is set for completion in 2022 at the cost of EGP 18 billion.
He added that the ministry has rehabilitated 1,248 kilometres of canals and is working on 4,417 more kilometres. The project is meant to improve the management and distribution of water.
Abdel-Ati also called on the public to protect the project's waterways from pollution.
The ministry, in parallel with the project of rehabilitating and lining water canals, encourages farmers to adopt modern irrigation techniques instead of surface irrigation to reduce water consumption, Abdel-Ati said.
Some 237,000 feddans are irrigated with modern techniques, the minister added.
Egypt suffers from a water deficit of 30 billion cubic metres; it annually needs at least 110 billion cubic metres of water. However, it currently has only 80 billion cubic metres, 55.5 billion cubic metres of which come from the Nile.