Thursday,23 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1414, (18 - 24 October 2018 )
Thursday,23 May, 2019
Issue 1414, (18 - 24 October 2018 )

Ahram Weekly

Attention to water

Cairo’s first Water Week raised awareness of water conservation, reports Mai Samih


Attention to water
Attention to water

To exchange international expertise on how to save water, Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources, along with national, regional and international partners, held the first Cairo Water Week (CWW) from 14 to 18 October.

In a meeting with the heads of delegations participating in the CWW, Egypt President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi affirmed that Cairo will continue to support the efforts of its brotherly nations to maximise benefits from the River Nile “in a way that does no harm to the Egyptian people”. Al-Sisi stressed Egypt’s keenness to host such events that aim at raising awareness on water-related issues and to cooperate and exchange expertise particularly on projects improving the utilisation of available water resources.

Head of the Ministry of Irrigation’s Regional Centre for Water Ethics Hossam Al-Emam stressed Egypt’s belief in the importance of dealing with water in an ethical way that determines good water governance. Al-Emam explained to Al-Ahram Weekly that the slogan of the conference — Preserving Water for Sustainable Development — means that this generation should use water in a way that does not affect the needs of generations to come.

"The event marks the beginning of an annual scientific forum to host scientists and international organisations to demonstrate what is new in the field of using water efficiently in light of the challenges Egypt as well as other countries are facing,” Al-Emam said.

The week’s events included the fourth session of the Islamic Conference of Ministers Responsible for Water. The conference is held every two years with the participation of the ministers concerned with water or their representatives in the 56 countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The CWW also included a ministerial meeting of the Delta Coalition, the world’s first international coalition of governments which have formed a partnership to deal with integrated management and sustainable development of the Deltas. The first African Water Young Professionals Forum was also held, as well as an exhibition displaying the latest in water administration.

Al-Emam pointed to the importance of ethics in water consumption. “One concept of water ethics is to use water without profusion. When I use more water than I need I am depriving someone else of his basic needs.”

He said the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources is working on a 2017-2037 national plan for water resources based on rationalising water use, developing alternatives for the future, water purification and drafting laws to better administer water use.

The CWW comes at a time when Egypt is trying to mitigate risks to its main water supply, the River Nile. Ethiopia, one of the river’s upstream countries, is building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam threatening to seriously reduce Egypt’s annual share of 55.5 billion cubic metres of water.

According to the ministry, the Nile provides Egypt with 94 per cent of its water resources. The remainder of its needs is from deep wells and rain.

Egypt uses 80.25 billion cubic metres of water per year, according to a ministry fact sheet. Seventy-five per cent of that goes to agriculture.

The gap between Egypt’s needs and its actual resources is covered mostly through the recycling of agricultural and sanitation waste water, the ministry said.

Over the past two decades Egypt has become a water-poor country with amounts dropping from 1,000 cubic metres per year per person in 1995 to 570 cubic metres in 2017.

The ministry report expects that by 2037, a person’s share of renewable water will decrease 35 per cent. If so, Egypt will be witnessing an era of water scarcity. Egypt’s water needs have increased over the years. Agricultural lands increased from 5.8 million feddans in 1980 to 8.7 million feddans in 2015, which means the need for more water. The same goes for industry which increased from 2.2 billion cubic metres in 2000 to 5.4 billion cubic metres in 2015.

The Ministry of Irrigation is working to increase awareness of the need to conserve and rationalise water. It also passed a law which criminalises the cultivation of certain crops such as rice, bananas and sugar cane except in designated areas.

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