Action at Cairo Water Week

Doaa El-Bey , Tuesday 18 Oct 2022

Water scarcity and climate change were the focus of the fifth edition of the Cairo Water Week, reports Doaa El-Bey

Action at Cairo Water Week


Discussions at the fifth edition of the Cairo Water Week (CWW 2022) that took place in the capital this week focused on promoting innovations to confront urgent water challenges using the latest technology and on means to support and implement integrated water-management policies to confront water scarcity and climate change.

The edition was held under the theme of “Water at the Heart of Climate Action” and concluded yesterday.

During the event, Minister of Irrigation Hani Sweilam presented the Cairo Call Document that is designed to be the starting point for countries suffering from water scarcity to design an initiative that can be presented to next year’s UN Conference on the Mid-Term Comprehensive Review of the Water Action Decade.

The recommendations reached at CWW 2022 will also be presented at the Water Pavilion at the COP27 Climate Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh. The CWW serves as a preparatory meeting for the UN Conference on the Mid-Term Comprehensive Review of the Water Action Decade in March next year.

In November 2018, the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution calling for a mid-term review of the UN Water Action Decade in March 2023 in New York. The UN had designated the years 2018 to 2028 as the Water Action Decade.

Thus, the CWW 2022 is designed to serve as a venue for countries suffering from water scarcity to agree on key messages to highlight at the UN conference next year. It aims to promote innovation in order to help water-scarce countries face pressing water-related challenges. The first CWW was held in 2018.

In his recorded address to the CWW, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi pointed to Egypt’s increasing focus on water-related challenges, placing water at the top of the climate agenda as one of the most important requirements for sustainable development.

It was Egypt’s destiny, he told the meeting, to be at the heart of three intertwined challenges: water, food security, and climate change, adding that climate change exacerbated water scarcity in Egypt.

Given these factors, the CWW has become an active international and regional platform supporting discussions on water issues, which are increasingly important to efforts to enhance international peace and sustainable development, he added.

The link between water and climate change, the theme of this year’s CWW, “is tackled in global discussions aiming to intensify international action on water and climate issues and culminating in the upcoming climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh next month,” he said.

This year, the CWW focused on five themes: Water Security and Climate Change; Protecting Deltas; Water-related Adaptations to Climate Change; Water, Climate Change and Future Cooperation; and Climate Water-related Disasters Preparation and Management.

It was attended by over 1,000 participants from 70 countries and 66 international organisations.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said in his address at the opening ceremony that Egypt is at the forefront of countries that suffer from water scarcity, underlining that Cairo has exerted every effort to achieve the sixth UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), which is clean water and sanitation, through its Vision 2030 Strategy and plans to manage water resources until 2037.

He pointed to the importance of realistic initiatives whether at the COP27 or the UN conference next March and invited the CWW attendees to “discuss the special challenges facing desert countries that suffer from water scarcity and the relation between international cooperation on the one hand and the state of peace, stability, and regional integration on the other.”

The four-day event was organised by the Ministry of Irrigation and the EU delegation to Egypt.

Egypt is one of the most arid countries in the world and depends on the Nile for more than 90 per cent of its water. The important issue of the Ethiopian Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which may have negative effects on the water supply to Egypt, must therefore be brought up in a meeting on water-related challenges.

Al-Sisi said that in dealing with the River Nile, Egypt has always been a pioneer in advancing the rules and principles of international law regarding shared watercourses, primarily cooperation and consultation, in order to avoid causing harm within the context of the management of transboundary water resources.

 Egypt’s vision is to work together with a focus on establishing and sharing prosperity, instead of competition and rivalry, which lead to sharing impoverishment and instability.

“Realising the gravity of the issue and given its existential importance to us, Egypt renews its commitment to exerting its utmost efforts to settle the dam issue in a manner that achieves the interests of all parties,” he said.

He also called on the international community to exert concerted efforts in order to achieve this goal.

Shoukri tackled the same issue in his meeting with president of the World Water Council (WWC) Loïc Fauchon on Monday. He reviewed the challenges related to water security that Egypt is confronting with a special emphasis on GERD-related challenges. Their meeting was held on the sidelines of the CWW.

Shoukri stressed the need to reach a deal between the three countries concerned on the rules governing the filling and operation of the GERD.

Egypt has drawn up a strategic plan for managing its water resources until 2037 at an estimated cost of $50 billion. It is based on four main pillars: improving water quality; establishing bilateral and tertiary treatment plants; developing new water resources through seawater desalination; and rationalising the consumption of available water resources.

The scarcity of water in the country requires the state to exert its upmost efforts to provide for the requirements of 105 million Egyptians, Sweilam told the CWW.

He called for the preparation of a specific programme for the countries that suffer from water scarcity to recruit all international efforts to help them confront the issue.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 October, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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