Water disaster builds in Egypt as dam talks falter, temperatures rise


FAYOUM, Egypt (Information) – Ahmed Abd-Rabo used to get all of the water he wanted to feed his crops 50 km (30 miles) from Egypt’s River Nile. Then provides within the canal linking his seven acres to the river dwindled as different farmers drew extra water, and he needed to abandon half the plot.

A normal view exhibits the River Nile with homes and farmland in Cairo, Egypt November 6, 2019. Information/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

His smallholding is among the victims of a creeping water disaster, exacerbated by Egypt’s rising inhabitants and the impacts of local weather change.

Egypt fears issues may get even worse as Ethiopia begins filling the reservoir behind a large dam upriver.

On Wednesday, the US was internet hosting talks between the international locations and their fellow Nile-user Sudan to attempt to restart stalled talks over the hydropower undertaking.

U.S. President Donald Trump stated he met with officers from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to debate the problems concerned.

“The assembly went nicely and discussions will proceed throughout the day!” Trump stated in a Twitter put up.

However even when Washington succeeds the place years of trilateral negotiations have failed, Egypt will nonetheless have broader water issues which have left it struggling to maintain meals manufacturing.

“There may be little or no Nile water,” stated Abd-Rabo, standing subsequent to the plot the place he grows wheat and fodder in Fayoum, about 100 km (60 miles) south of the capital, Cairo.

“In winter, typically there’s a bit extra, however primarily as a result of the land doesn’t want quite a lot of water within the winter. However in the summertime, we don’t get any.”

Egyptian officers say they at present have round 570 cubic meters (150,000 gallons) of water per particular person per yr – hydrologists contemplate a rustic to be dealing with water shortage if provides drop beneath 1,000 cubic meters per particular person yearly.


Egypt’s determine is predicted to drop to 500 cubic meters by 2025. That’s with out considering the influence of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Egypt says will decrease water ranges additional, although Ethiopia says it has taken the wants of Egypt and Sudan under consideration.

The stakes are excessive. Discuss of bodily battle between the international locations alongside the Nile has receded, however Egypt sees the dam as an existential menace that might decimate farming and harm energy provides.

Greater than 80% of its water is used for agriculture, however shortage means Cairo already imports about half its meals and is the world’s largest wheat importer.

The federal government is urging farmers to make use of extra environment friendly irrigation and plant seeds with shorter life spans that require much less water. It is usually making an attempt to recycle extra water.

However the water administration and irrigation schemes haven’t reached everybody.

“We’re nonetheless utilizing outdated irrigation strategies, which use mud and soil, and waste water,” stated Aref Mohamed, a farmer close to the southern metropolis of Luxor.

Fines to cease farmers planting water-intensive rice within the northern Nile Delta aren’t being as strictly enforced as final yr, locals say. The realm beneath rice cultivation has shot as much as 1.75 million acres (zero.7 million hectare) from about 800,000 acres over the identical interval, in response to irrigation ministry estimates.


Local weather change presents one other threat. With temperatures rising, Egypt may lose 30% of its meals manufacturing in southern areas by 2040, in response to the U.N. World Meals Programme.

Heatwaves have already diminished crop productiveness and in Fayoum, residents say temperatures have been rising for years, forcing farmers to make use of extra water for much less land.

“We have now not acquired any produce from this land over the previous three years due to the temperature ranges,” stated one other farmer in Fayoum, asking to not be named. “Now, if I’ve two feddans (2.1 acres), I’ll plant one and go away the opposite one.”

The impact of local weather change in upstream nations is unsure.

“It’s unclear whether or not there can be a rise or lower of rainfall in international locations of (the Nile) supply,” stated Tahani Mostafa Sileet of Egypt’s water assets and irrigation ministry. “As such, we don’t know whether or not to regulate our politics based mostly on a rise or a lower of assets.”

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However any alteration to Nile flows may make “enormous distinction”, stated Randa Aboul Hosn of the UN improvement company UNDP. Each “2% drop of water impacts a million folks,” she stated.

(Graphic on the competitors for water, here)

Extra reporting by Nadine Awadalla and Momen Saeed Atallah; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Enhancing by Aidan Lewis and Marguerita Choy