You are here: Home » PTI Stories » National » News
Business Standard

Egypt's fertile Nile Delta threatened by climate change

AFP  |  Kafr Al-Dawar (Egypt) 

Lush green fields blanket northern Egypt's Delta, but the country's agricultural heartland and its vital freshwater resources are under threat from a warming climate.

The fertile arc-shaped basin is home to nearly half the country's population, and the river that feeds it provides with 90 percent of its water needs.

But climbing temperatures and drought are drying up the mighty -- a problem compounded by rising seas and soil salinization, experts and farmers say.

Combined, they could jeopardise crops in the Arab world's most populous country, where the of its 98 million residents are only expected to increase.

"The is shrinking. The water doesn't reach us anymore," says Talaat al-Sisi, a who has grown wheat, corn and other crops for 30 years in the southern Delta governorate of Menoufia.

"We've been forced to tap into the groundwater and we've stopped growing rice," a cereal known for its greedy water consumption, he adds.

By 2050, the region could lose up to 15 percent of its key agricultural land due to salinization, according to a 2016 study published by Egyptian economists.

The yield of tomato crops could drop by 50 percent, the study said, with staple cereals like wheat and rice falling 18 and 11 percent respectively.

In Kafr al-Dawar in the delta's north, Egypt's irrigation ministry and the are working on eco-friendly techniques like solar-powered watering that experts say emit less greenhouse gases and could help improve crop yields.

On site, two farmers wearing traditional galabiya gowns show off shiny new solar panels framed by row after row of corn, barley and wheat.

Sayed Soliman, eyes bright and cane in hand, runs a group of about 100 farmers who work a plot of more than 100 hectares (around 250 acres).

The seasoned is delighted. He can now power the pumps that water his field without relying on Egypt's and like diesel that are responsible for climate change.

Diesel-powered generators are now only used "when necessary", he says, such as after sunset.

After his success, a neighbouring village is also switching to solar-powered irrigation. "One of the priorities is innovation... so that can make the most of its water," says Hussein Gadain, the (FAO) in

"The delta plays an important role in the country's " Ibrahim Mahmoud, of the irrigation ministry's development projects, said plans were in place to modernise watering systems across the country by 2050.

The strategy, he says, is intended to improve farmers' "environmental conditions, standards of living and productivity".

But in a country in the tight grip of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the and its resources remain an ultra-sensitive topic.

AFP's visit to Kafr al-Dawar was closely supervised by the ministry.

In front of officials, farmers stuck to well-worn talking points about the delta's bounty but politely skirted questions on water scarcity.

Sisi has made the Nile's water a "life or death issue" for Egypt, particularly in the framework of negotiations with neighbouring Sudan, as well as

fears Addis Ababa's controversial will bring consequences downstream.

For Dalia Gouda, Egypt currently has two priorities when it comes to combatting its water scarcity dilemma: tackling overpopulation and defending the country's interests against

"There are many interesting projects under way to improve water efficiency," says Gouda.

"Although they are not necessarily designed to combat the effects of climate change, they can only prepare the authorities to deal with them.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, December 07 2018. 17:00 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU