EGYPT: Water challenges forcing a rethink on usage
SHARQIA, 20 October 2011 (IRIN) - Leaking water pipes, evaporation and a
rapidly growing population may be significant concerns for those trying to
manage and plan water supplies in Egypt, but compounding such problems - and
forcing Egyptians to rethink how they use water - is the threat posed by
downstream countries which also want to take more water from the Nile, say
"Egyptians have to adapt to less water every day," said Rida Al Damak, a
water expert from Cairo University.
Egypt has a population of about 85 million, and receives an annual Nile
water share of 55.5 billion cubic metres, according to experts. Around 85
percent of that water is used in agriculture, but a lot simply leaks away.
According to a 2007 research paper by Fathi Farag, an independent
> water expert (link in
Arabic), Egypt loses two billion cubic metres of water to evaporation, and
three billion cubic metres to grass growing on the banks of the Nile and on
Around 40 percent of the remaining water - used domestically and in industry
(2.3 billion cubic metres) - is lost to leaking pipes and drains, while 2.5
billion cubic metres are used to generate electricity, the paper says.
"If you calculate all this amount of lost water, you will discover that
Egyptians are left with a fraction of what their country receives every year
from the Nile," Farag told IRIN. "This can also show why we should start to
For farmers like Hamdy Abuleinin, who was able to irrigate his 2.1 hectares
of rice only after an argument over water with neighbours in Sharqia near
Cairo, this year has proved difficult. "Finding water for irrigation is
becoming a daily worry for farmers here," he told IRIN.
A 1959 water-sharing agreement between Egypt and Sudan gives Egypt 55.5
billion cubic metres of Nile water, but according to Maghawri Shehata, an
adviser to the irrigation and water resources minister, population pressure
means the country is already facing a shortfall of 10-15 billion cubic
metres annually, and "plans by upstream countries to redistribute the water
will be very harmful to Egypt".
According to the
=84&lang=en> Nile Basin Initiative countries that share the Nile River basin
have demanded the revision of colonial-era agreements that allot the bulk of
the river's water to Egypt and Sudan and allow Cairo to veto upstream
Egypt does not recognize a recent agreement signed by Burundi, Ethiopia,
Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, that seeks to allow irrigation and
hydroelectric projects to go ahead without Cairo's consent. Ethiopia, for
instance, is planning a series of dams along the Nile to generate
In March, Ethiopia announced the construction of the Renaissance Dam, which
aims to be the largest hydroelectric plant in Africa. Experts like Mehari
Beyene, writing for the <http://www.internationalrivers.org/en/node/6754
International Rivers network, however, say the dam, which is being
constructed near the Sudanese border, has raised concerns about its
environmental and human impacts.
> Haytham Awad, an
irrigation engineering professor from Alexandria University, said Ethiopia's
plan to construct dams along the Nile would reduce Egypt's current share by
five billion cubic metres annually, but he thought this might be manageable
if Egypt could cooperate with Ethiopia and buy some of the electricity
Protests over water shortages in Egypt are
> nothing new especially
in July and August, the hottest summer months. On 11 October a 16-year-old
farmer was killed in a
> dispute over water
in the southern governorate of Aswan.
Farmers like Abuleinin worry about the future for his seven children.
"Fights over water sometimes become physical as water becomes scarcer and
these fights might entail loss of life. But the alternative for us is to
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Received on Thu Oct 20 2011 - 08:38:42 EDT