Increasing wariness over climate change in Egypt
Cairo - This winter has been a lot chillier in Egypt than usual. Summer heat has also become more extreme, with experts saying climate change threatens to do irreparable harm.
“One of these things is the effect of the rise in seawater levels, which is expected to be induced by the melting of polar ice caps, on Egypt’s coastal cities and the Nile delta,” environmentalist Ahmed Abdel A’al said. “Effects in this regard will be catastrophic for our country, causing massive economic damage and loss to millions of people.”
Rising sea levels — a projected effect of climate change — could cause billions of dollars of damage to Egypt’s coastal cities and the delta, experts and environmental studies say.
The delta could flood if sea levels rise 10 metres, according to the geoscience news and information site Geology.com.
The delta is densely populated and Egypt’s most important agricultural region, containing millions of acres of farmland and providing the country with the bulk of its agricultural production. The delta and the narrow valley of the Nile account for 5.5% of Egypt’s total area but more than 95% of its population and agriculture are found in the region.
The delta is flat and a small rise in the sea level could flood much of it, placing coastal cities, such as Alexandria, Damietta and Port Said, at risk.
With the exception of small areas of cultivated land in the oases of the western desert, the coastlands west of the delta, and in Northern Sinai, the rest of Egypt is desert.
Mohamed Dawoud, an agriculture expert, says crop yields have been falling throughout Egypt because of climate change.
“Farmers are losing their crops because of rising temperatures,” Dawoud said. “The worst is yet to come.”
A few years ago, a large number of farmers growing mango trees in Ismailia, near the Suez Canal, and other provinces blamed rising temperatures for the burning of their mango trees.
Studies predict Egyptian crop yields will fall by a staggering 30% in less than 35 years if average temperatures rise 1.5-2 degrees Celsius.
This, experts say, will be a significant loss to a country that already imports more than 60% of its food and whose agricultural space continues to shrink because of natural and human-caused desertification.
Egypt is trying to protect its coasts from the predicted rise of sea levels by putting millions of concrete blocks along the coast — some of them seen in Alexandria and Damietta.
Nevertheless, specialists say Egypt needs to do more work to adapt to expected changes.
“We need to invent our own adaptation mechanisms, which will make it necessary for us to, for example, change our farming and crop plans,” said Sayed Sabri, another environmentalist. “We also need to create new types of seeds that show resilience to — among other things — warmer weathers and scarce water if we really want to adapt to the changes.”