By Tarek Sallam
The Second Cairo Water Week will be held next week under the auspices of H.E. Abdel Fatah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt. It is being organised by the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation in collaboration with national, regional and international partners.
The event became the focus of attention of all those who cares about water as a basic element for life and turned to be the main and largest water event in Egypt. Thus, it has gained the interest and support of all water stakeholders at all levels. This year, the event will be held under the theme “response to water scarcity”.
The current world population of 7.3 billion is expected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100 according to United Nation estimates. With increasing population; the water demand is creasing while the world fresh water resources are limited to only 2.5% of all the water on earth. Out of this amount of freshwater, only 1% is accessible. Moreover, the problem gets worse due to climate change, thus water scarcity has become one of the most serious global challenges, especially in arid and vulnerable regions. it was listed in 2015 by the World Economic Forum as the largest global risk in terms of potential impact over the next decade.
According to different global water scarcity indicators, most of the African continent faces economic water scarcity where water is inaccessible, while in the Middle East and North Africa the physical water scarcity is the predominant-inadequate natural water resources to supply the region’s demands.
As one of the North African arid countries, Egypt faces physical water scarcity, in addition to its vulnerability to the effect of global warming, sea level rise and the fast growing population that pose many challenges that need a lot of efforts and innovative ideas for achieving sustainable development.
The event will be an opportunity for academics, scholars, and policy markers, water resources expects form all around the world to present and discuss the key issues, plans and actions related to responding to the challenges of water scarcity.
The event thus aims at translation the vision created during the First Cairo Water Week into actions towards best practices and suitable implementation plans. The event will also be an opportunity to bring awareness about water issues, how to tackle water scarcity with new technologies, enhance water management policies, adaptation, co-operation between stakeholders and cross boundary co-operation.
Egypt devotion to water issues has always been part of its history and policy. It’s noteworthy that Egypt has been suffering from severe water scarcity in recent years. The country relies heavily on River Nile for its main sources of water and we can undoubtedly say that the River Nile is the backbone of Egypt’s industrial and agricultural sector and is the primary source of drinking water for the population.
With its rising population, Egypt is facing an annual water deficit of round seven (7) billion cubic meters. In fact, United Nations is already warning that Egypt could run out of water by the year 2025.
The Egyptian government is working on keeping its water security as much as it can through taking some procedures that may help ration water such as preventing the cultivation of crops that need large amounts of water, launching campaigns to raise farmers’ and households’ awareness to reduce water usage, and implementing water reuse as a key strategy.
Egypt fully understands the need of the Nile upstream friendly countries for development and prosperity and has historically helped upstream countries to build water projects that benefited these countries and its people, the Owen dam in Uganda is a clear example in this regard.
Additionally, Egypt is always keen on sharing its resources and experiences with Nile basin countries to build capacities in all sectors, as well as increasing investment and bilateral trade to create a long lasting bonds between our communities and institutions.
The Egyptian policy is thus driven by the awareness of having a win-win situation with all upstream countries, so that sustainable development is achieved, while the right of living is ensured for the Egyptian people through the only available source of water. Egypt is thus keen to reach the necessary agreement and arrangements, either on the bilateral level or through multilateral frameworks to materialize the idea of achieving the benefits of all countries sharing the Nile.
We are looking to Uganda’s participation in this important event that represent a convenient forum for discussions on how to achieve the best forms of co-operation between countries on securing a promising future for next generation.
The writer is the Egyptian Ambassador to Uganda