Protecting the Nile Delta | Inter Press Service
With support from the Green Climate Fund and UNDP, Egypt is protecting its people and economy from the devastating effects of sea level rise
– Children run one after the other with kites flying along the Nile Delta in Egypt. Families and friends enjoy the scenery while enjoying an afternoon picnic. A few kilometers away, farmers are working in their green fields. These diverse cultures will feed millions of Egyptians. Cities across the region are buzzing with people coming and going from factories and offices, playing football with their families, and building the economic engine that will support nations’ goals for low-carbon, climate-resilient development.
It is a beautiful image. An image of progress, an image of hope, an image of peace.
Now imagine if this had a negative impact. The Nile Delta is home to 18 million citizens – almost a quarter of Egypt’s population – as well as countless businesses, economic sectors, farms and more.
This terrifying scenario will come true if climate change is not taken seriously.
Millions in danger
The effects are already being felt. Take the example of Aziz, who lives with her family in a modest house in the coastal town of Kafr ElSheikh governorate, 130 km north of Cairo.
“Fishermen and farmers were afraid to go to work,” says Aziz, “because of the rise in the water level that covers the shore during storms”.
Aziz’s observations have been supported by scientific reports. According to a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Nile Delta is one of the most vulnerable areas in the world in terms of sea level rise, extreme weather conditions and other factors aggravated by climate change.
This region accounts for more than half of Egypt’s economic activity through agriculture, industry and fishing. The Nile Delta alone contributes around 20% of Egypt’s GDP.
Egypt has studied the results and worked with international partners on solutions to protect vulnerable areas and their populations.
To address these issues, the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation has partnered with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – the world’s largest fund dedicated to climate – to launch a new climate project.
With the help of the project, 17 million people will be protected from coastal flooding through the installation of 69 kilometers of low-cost dyke system on the banks of the Nile Delta. They were designed to look like natural coastal features and / or sand dunes.
The dikes will be stabilized using a combination of reed fencing and local plant species to promote dune growth by trapping and stabilizing blown sand. These coastal protection measures will reuse existing dredged material that would otherwise have been deposited in the marine environment.
Protecting local communities, preventing economic loss, and saving human settlements and infrastructure require extraordinary measures.
“We realized that the rising waters reached us because there were no measures to protect our lives and our properties,” Aziz said.
The number of extreme weather events resulting in casualties and economic losses has dramatically increased in Egypt over the past 10 years. Aziz has witnessed strong storms never seen before.
So far, 10 percent of the dikes have been installed. They were put to the test in December 2020, when the country witnessed one of the severe storms, including heavy rains and high winds. People could personally see how deadly extreme weather could be if the country is not prepared. The dikes passed the test and blocked the unexpected sea surge on the shores of the Nile Delta.
The physical solution is not the only way to combat the negative impacts of climate change. An Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) plan will be implemented to make the region’s economic, social and agricultural activities climate resilient. The plan will include establishing a system to monitor sea level changes and the impact of climate change on coastal erosion and shoreline stability.
Community coastal development activities are carried out at different locations throughout the project intervention area. For example, an agricultural drainage system – located north of Bar-Bahry – will improve the productivity of about 1,000 acres north of the coastal road and increase the incomes of at least 500 families.
An urban drainage system in the village of Al-aqoula will protect the main roads from excessive rains. This will positively improve the quality of life of the entire village of 1,500 inhabitants and facilitate their access to services such as schools, places of worship, markets and transport.
As for Aziz, he says the work is already having an impact. “The farmers are back in the field after the implementation of the project. We saw the change when we woke up to find that the water couldn’t reach us, our fields and our homes, ”says Aziz. “With that [project] in place, we hope our children will have a secure future.