Tuesday,18 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1277, (7 - 13 January 2016)
Tuesday,18 June, 2019
Issue 1277, (7 - 13 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Opting for sustainable development

Young men and women from across the continent met in Luxor and Aswan in December to discuss sustainable development

Some 300 young men and women from 13 Arab and African countries met in Luxor and Aswan in December to discuss sustainable development in the region, reports Mahmoud Bakr. Promoting the idea that “the Nile is for cooperation, not conflict,” the week-long Seventh Arab-African Youth Forum also commemorated the achievements of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first post-independence president and a champion of African unity.

Gamal Nkrumah, Kwame’s son, was presented with a shield of honour in memory of his father during the event. It was organised by the Arab Federation for Youth and Environment (AFYE), the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO), the Egyptian government and the Arab League.

Addressing the forum, Luxor Governor Mohamed Badr said plans have been made to turn Luxor into a green governorate by 2020. Luxor is ready to launch long-term development projects backed by vision and an institutional strategy, he added.

AFYE Secretary-General Mamdouh Rashwan said that the Arab-African Youth Forum aims to promote sustainable development in Africa and the Arab world. He said that Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation has decided to create a Nile Museum near the Aswan Dam, thus fulfilling an earlier recommendation by the forum.

“The forum is designed to stimulate young people to engage in development and global issues, exchange expertise, and raise awareness of environmental matters relating to water and biological diversity,” he said.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Sayed Khalifa told the forum that Egypt continues to encourage business and nongovernmental groups to set up renewable energy projects.

Noting that Luxor has become the first governorate to light its offices using solar energy, Khalifa said it is also recycling organic refuse from sugarcane projects.

The governorate is also using sewage water to irrigate a 1,000-feddan timber forest, Khalifa said. He briefed the forum on a major project, supported by Arab and African partners, to produce wheat, barley, corn and vegetables in the region.

Mohamed Yehya, president of the Luxor Water Holding Company, said that Luxor’s timber forest will grow by 3,000 feddans once the capacity of the current sewage treatment station is increased. Luxor will soon be the first governorate to use its entire sewage water for agriculture, according to Yehya.

Professor Abbas Sharraqi of the Natural Resources Department of Cairo University said that the accelerated pace of water projects in Africa has led to conflicts, including between Egypt and Ethiopia. Citing a US research paper on the development of the Blue Nile between 1953 and 1963, Sharraqi also noted several successful examples of African water projects.

Referring to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), currently being built on the Nile in Ethiopia, Sharraqi said that Egypt has not given its consent to the building of the dam to its current specifications.

He added that Ethiopia has used some of the documents Egypt signed in recent talks to obtain foreign funding, claiming that Cairo had no objection to the project, which is not true, he said. Ethiopia, Sharraqi said, is “playing for time” and has already completed nearly 50 per cent of the controversial dam.

Meanwhile, the per capita share of renewable water in North Africa has dropped to less than 1,000 cubic metres annually, he added. Water conflicts, triggered by industrialisation, urbanisation and population growth, pose a definite risk to the continent, Sharraqi said, noting that the demand for water is likely to rise by 40 per cent over the next 25 years.

Shortages of water are likely to increase with climate change, Sharraqi noted, referring particularly to the gradual shrinkage of Lake Chad in the Sahel region of Africa. He called for closer cooperation between Egypt and Sudan in matters related to the GERD and said that both countries must redouble their diplomatic exchanges with upstream countries to resolve the current problems.

Sharraqi said that Egypt needs to explain its position more clearly to the international community, as many countries are under the impression that Egypt and Sudan are opposed to development projects in upstream countries.

He recommended that Egypt stick to the agreements concluded with upstream countries in the past. Some 15 agreements were signed between 1891 and 1993. Of these, four were reached with Ethiopia.

In recent negotiations over the GERD, Egyptian negotiators did not bring up these agreements for discussion. Egypt, he said, should also file a protest with the UN over the controversial dam.

Ethiopia, Sharraqi added, has thus far ignored all international agreements and is pressing on with its plans without concern for the potential impact on downstream countries.

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