Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1121, 8-14 November
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1121, 8-14 November

Ahram Weekly

One river for all

Young people from the Nile Basin countries recently took part in an environmental awareness-raising forum in Luxor, writes Mahmoud Bakr

Al-Ahram Weekly

“One river, one people” was the slogan of the Fourth Arab-African Youth Environmental Forum held recently in Luxor. The meeting, which brought together 300 young people from the Nile Valley to discuss water-related problems, was organised by the Arab Federation for Youth and Environment (AFYE), the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) and the governorate of Luxor.
According to a report by 40 former world leaders, the world will need fresh water amounting to the equivalent of 20 rivers the size of the Nile by the year 2025. World consumption of water, now standing at some 3,800 cubic kilometres, is expected to grow by an extra 1,000 cubic kilometres to serve the world’s population in 2025. According to the report, the greatest increases in the demand for water will be in China, the US and India.
Experts also estimate that some 4,500 children now die every day because of water-related diseases, a figure equivalent to the death toll of the crash of 10 passenger planes every day. According to Khaled Alamedddin, adviser to the Egyptian president on the environment and scientific research, such figures indicate that the question of the environment is one that requires the cooperation of all nations and close coordination between governments and civil society organisations.
Magdi Allam, former AFYE president, said that the Nile Valley receives 700 billion cubic metres of rainfall every year, of which the combined share of Egypt and Sudan is merely some 55.5 billion. He voiced concern at the damage that environmental factors may cause in the region, with the possibility that in future parts of the Nile Delta may be inundated by rising sea water. The increased frequency of hurricanes, an effect of global climate change, could also undermine food production in Egypt, he said, going on to announce plans for the creation of a new federation for youth and the environment in the Nile Valley.
Mustafa Eid from ISESCO said that nearly 1.4 billion people living in the developing countries today have no access to clean drinking water. About 450 million people suffer from water shortages, he said, adding that the demand on water for drinking and irrigation is likely to increase by about 20 per cent in the next 25 years.
AFYE President Ahmed Ashour pointed to arguments that had surfaced at the meeting of Nile Basin state irrigation ministers in Sharm El-Sheikh in April 2012, saying that the current disputes were not insurmountable. Dialogue among young people from the countries concerned could be one method by which differences among Nile Basin countries could be narrowed. Young people had a role to play in formulating answers to the main questions of our time, including those related to the environment, he said.
Abbas Sharaki, who runs the African Studies Centre at Cairo University, said that most Arab countries were facing acute shortages of water due to population growth, urbanisation, and rising standards of living. Nearly half of the water resources of the Arab world come from rivers, many of which are shared by other countries. Water projects in countries such as Ethiopia, Turkey and Israel have had or will have impacts on the livelihoods of millions living in the Arab world, he added.
However, Sharaki played down the impact of the dam Ethiopia is planning to build on the Blue Nile. Most of Ethiopia is volcanic and mountainous, he said, which makes it hard to channel water over long distances, and for this reason it is unlikely that the dam can be used to store excessive quantities of water. If the purpose of the dam is to generate hydroelectric power, then the impact on Egypt’s supply of water will be minimal, he said.
Helwan University professor Jihan Al-Bayoumi reviewed the geological reasons obstructing the creation of major water projects in the Nile Basin countries. Mountainous terrain, the rocky composition of the land, quick evaporation, and soil instability all make it hard to store and distribute water over large distances.
AFYE Secretary-General Mamdouh Rashwan listed the activities of the Forum, noting that the participants had also taken part in street-cleaning, tree-planting and drawing competitions.
The participants in the forum called for the creation of a youth federation for the Nile Basin countries that would be devoted to environmental issues. They also urged Egyptian universities to give 100 fellowships a year to exchange students from African countries, allowing them to enrol in the African Studies Institute at Cairo University, the Environmental Studies Institute at Ain Shams University and the Higher Institute for Health in Alexandria.
Rashwan said that it was important to hold regular camps for young people from the Nile Basin countries, noting also that the participants in the Luxor Forum had called for summer and winter camps to be organised in Egypt and for other camps to be held in Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. They had also recommended the creation of a Nile tour “from the source to the Delta” at prices affordable for young people.
Young people should be given the opportunity to visit the environmentally protected areas in the Nile Basin countries, they said. Another recommendation was for museums to be built in the various countries that would explain the history of irrigation, forestation and agriculture on the Nile in the Nile Basin countries.

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