Increasing wariness over climate change in Egypt

Friday 19/02/2016
A girl rides a bike during a rain and hail storm, in Alexandria.

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
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.”