Sunday, February 9, 2014

Egypt's generals face watery battle

Shelly Kittleson in IPS: Heavy reliance on water intensive crops, a major upstream dam project for the Nile basin, and rising groundwater levels pushing at pharaoh-era monuments will be pressing issues for the next Egyptian president – whether military or civilian.

As criticism continues over the military’s heavy-handedness to quell protests, little attention is being given to the late January announcement by Egypt’s minister of irrigation and water resources on the growing severity of the country’s water shortage: share of water per citizen stands at 640 cubic metres, compared with an international standard of 1,000.

The minister said he expected this amount to decrease to 370 cubic metres by 2050 due to a rapidly growing population. A scientist working in the water resources sector expressed cautious hope to IPS that “the military is one of the few institutions that can actually get things done.” But he added: “That said, they were in power for a long time and didn’t do anything.”

Improving irrigation practices and countering the demographic explosion are some of the most commonly cited actions to be considered, as well as reducing the use of pesticides and improving sewage and waste disposal systems to prevent contaminating the limited water supplies available.

...Egypt’s agriculture sector consumes well over 80 percent of the country’s annual water resources and sugarcane accounts for a large portion, alongside rice and cotton. Rice production has been banned by the government in some areas for its heavy water requirements, though it commands a high price on the international market, is a staple for the population, and a certain quantity helps control soil salinity and limits saltwater intrusion in the Delta....

Irrigation in the Egyptian desert, shot by David Monniaux and Mai-Linh Doan, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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