Egypt is vulnerable to, and will be disproportionally hit by, the effects of climate change, especially rising sea levels, an academic and governmental panel agreed at Cairo Climate Talks Tuesday evening.
Hosted at the Greek Campus in Downtown, the speakers warned that as Egypt’s population and business cling to seas and rivers, rising sea levels poses a threat to food security, water, and population displacement.
“Sea level rises are a significant problem for Mediterranean governorates like Alexandria, which are heavily populated, alongside the general location of many industries along the coast,” said Dr Khaled El-Deen, Head of the Environment and Climate Research Institute at the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation. “Beheira, for instance, is known for growing significant amounts of rice and wheat, and there is also significant energy production industry at the Western side of the coast.”
Dr Mohamed Bayoumi, an Environment Specialist at the United Nations Development Program, agreed that the effect of rising sea water poses many problems for water in Egypt. The risk of sea water interrupting the flow of the Nile and salinating its composition, means that agricultural lands that are currently fertile could become ruined or flooded.
In terms of adapting and mitigating to the effects of climate change, Bayoumi suggested the movement must go hand-in-hand with development, such that new projects are conceived with threats such as sea level rises in mind. Further, as a phenomenon such as climate change affects so many, planning must “look at the national interests before sectorial interests”.
The vast majority of Egypt’s population lives along the coast or the Nile, both highly susceptible to changing water levels. According to the World Bank, a rise of one metre would flood one-fourth of the Nile Delta, which would also displace around 10% of Egypt’s population from their homes.
El-Deen felt that ministries are currently doing a good job on the issue and seemed to encourage individual action. He continued that now is the time to raise public awareness about the coming threats of a more hostile environment such that governments, businesses and individuals are sure to incorporate the issue in to planning. More so, environmental legislation should be strongly enforced, in order to stop individuals making decisions that advance their own interests and understand that our decisions affect one another.