Water is the source of life on Earth for all living organisms, as God Almighty says in the Munificent Quran "And, We made from water every living thing." (The Prophets :30). Water is the second most important of all natural resources on Earth next to air as its quantities are fixed, whether it is fresh water, salt water, surface water or underground water.
It covers 80% of the Earth's surface. Oceans and seas contain 317 million cubic miles, glacier ice 7.3 million cubic miles, salt lakes 25,000 cubic miles, rivers 411,000 cubic miles, fresh water lakes 30,000 cubic miles, undergroundwater one million cubic miles, non-saturated soil 16,000 cubic miles, and water vapour 3,100 cubic miles.
Water constitutes 75% of the human body weight and 80% of the total composition of most vegetables. At the same time, water causes an estimated 80% of diseases in the world. This is either due to water contamination or to water shortage.
Thus, water needs and the development process are inseparable, as human civilization and progress are measured by the quantity of water used per day.
Water Resources in Egypt
Water is the fundamental element for sustainable and integrated development in Egypt. Horizontal expansion in agriculture is connected to the country's ability to provide the water required for that expansion. Moreover, the economics of water use and its future on the long run require searching for alternatives and determining the water resources available at present and additional resources we can obtain in the future.
Water Resources Available for Use and Quantities Obtained at Present and in the Future:
River Nile is the longest river on Earth, flowing for nearly 6,700 kilometers from its source to its mouth. The river water yield is about 1,630 billion cubic meters (BCM) per annum, of which only 10 percent are exploited. The length of River Nile in Egypt is 1,530 km and the area of the River Nile Basin is 1.3 million square meters. The Basin spreads over ten countries: Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Egypt. The volume of water resources in Egypt amounts to approximately 69.7 (BCM) per annum, used for all purposes. River Nile constitutes more than 95% of Egypt's total water resources. Egypt's share of Nile water is 55.5 (BCM).
Due to the establishment of the High Dam in 1964 and the use of its large capacity in continuous water storage, Egypt secured obtaining fixed annual water yield.
Reservoir and Barrage Projects on the River Nile
There are 11 main barrages on the River Nile and its two branches, 17 mouth barrages, that convey water directly from the Nile, and 37 stone barrages built across Rayahs and main canals. The length of waterways that supply Egypt with water is about 35,000 km.
Strategy to Develop Irrigation Programmes
Egypt setout an important strategy to develop irrigation programmes as follows:
1- Water resources development programme.
2-Preservation of water resources and River Nile protection programme.
3- Replacement and renovation of lifting stations programme.
4- Preservation of the integrity and efficiency of the High Dam and the Aswan Reservoir programme.
5- Agricultural land drainage programme.
6- Studies and research programme.
7- Protection of Egyptian coastal areas programme.
8- Updating cadastral maps programme.
9- Supporting and developing human potentials and water media.
Preservation of River Nile and Water Resources
Egypt has achieved the following:
- Projects of water quality improvement in Lake Manzala as well as the Damietta and Rosetta branches of the Nile.
- Installation of five sanitary disposal stations for Nile cruises along the river's course in Cairo, Minya, Assiut and Sohag.
- Conducting a study of an empirical contamination abatement project in Bahr el Baqar drain in Manzala Lagoon .
- The establishment of a center for combating marine pollution in Sharm el-Sheikh at a cost of LE 4 million.
- Conducting a comprehensive survey of the Egyptian coasts to locate 84 sites prone to the dangers of pollution, including 45 on the
Mediterranean, 29 on the Red Sea and Suez and Aqaba Gulfs to implement a periodical programme for monitoring the quality of coastal water so as to follow up the source of pollution and provide monitoring institutes with the required machines and equipment.
2- Underground Water
Underground water is an important source of fresh water in Egypt; its importance is augmented by the fact that it is the sole and essential source of water in the Egyptian desert that constitutes 95% of Egypt's total area. Underground water can be used directly without treatment as it is not exposed to pollution, in addition to its constant temperature over the year. Thus, it is a safe source for potable water.
Within the framework of developing water resources plan that Egypt is carrying out (and ending in 2017), the quantity of underground water aimed to be saved is estimated at 5.9 (BCM), of which 2.7 (BCM) underground water and 3.2 (BCM) deep underground water.
3- Rain Water
Rain falls on Egypt rarely; its rate ranges between 20 mm and 150 mm annually on the northwest coast of Egypt and decreases gradually in other parts. Southern Egypt receives only a trace of rain each year. Thus, rain remains a limited and unreliable source in agricultural development, but can continue to play a role in pasture cultivation in desert areas and irrigation in the North Coast.
4- Drainage Water
Since the 1950's, Egypt has started to reuse the agricultural drainage water which is treated and mixed with Nile water to be used in irrigation. Around 4.7 (BCM) of agricultural drainage water is used annually, and is targeted to be about 10 (BCM) over the next 10 years.
Stations were established on some of the Nile Delta drains to lift and push water into canals for land irrigation. The quantity of drainage water used is estimated at 9 (BCM).
The River Nile Agreements
Egypt and the other Nile Basin Countries have paid more attention to the development and management of water resources in recent years. That got manifested in the growing interest in the activities of the number of international bodies and institutions. In Africa, there is a number of rivers and lakes that provide the African peoples with their needs of water and at the same time give a real image of the existence of enormous wealth and stocks of water resources.
Moreover, the world's largest desert is in Africa. The Sahara (Great Desert) lies north of the equator and Kalahari Desert south of it, in addition to other arid lands in most parts of the continent. The tribulations and destruction caused by long periods of drought in plains and several parts in other countries revealed the dire need for food, fodder, fibers and basic facilities such as potable water and sanitary drainage.
The general climate and these indicators give governments and peoples of Africa a new vision as regards a pressing need to set up mechanisms and legislations that govern that issue and control it so as not to worsen the situation, deteriorate relations and disrupt standards among the African nations. Hence, it was necessary to have agreements, treaties and protocols that regulate and govern the management of water resources in the African continent. Consequently, an agreement was concluded between Egypt and the Sudan in 1959; that set Egypt's share of Nile waters at 55.5 billion cubic meters per year.
The agreement signed between Egypt and the Sudan in 1959, for full utilization of the Nile waters, confirmed the Nile Waters Agreement concluded in 1929 between Egypt and Ethiopia that provided for the construction of projects for the increase of the River yield and the full utilization of its waters according to the applied technical arrangements.
By virtue of this agreement, optimum benefit has been obtained from projects that increase the River yield of water such as the High Dam in southern Egypt. Furthermore, projects were constructed to prevent losses of waters of the Nile Basin in swamps of Bahr al- Jabal, Bahr az- Zaraf, Bahr al- Ghazal and its tributaries, the Sobat River and its tributaries and the White Nile Basin. The net yield of those projects is to be divided equally between the two Republics and each of them ought to contribute equally to the costs of agricultural expansion for the benefit of the peoples of both countries.
Planning and Scientific Management of Water Resources
Egypt always stresses the importance of water in socio-economic development in Africa, as well as its uses in agriculture, navigation and power generation via a policy of water usage appropriate for the Nile Basin countries. Egypt also emphasizes the importance of boosting regional and international cooperation as well as developing irrigation techniques in Africa, with regional and international participation.
Egypt supports the establishment of water and agricultural projects in the Nile Basin countries in addition to means of developing the River Nile waters, preserving the environment and setting a new mechanism to enable those countries to develop the Nile resources.
Egypt provides the necessary facilities to train technical cadres of the Nile Basin countries at the Egyptian training centers.
Furthermore, Egypt is keen to continue the assessment and monitoring of water resources as the basis for the overall development of water resources in the Nile Basin. Egypt is also enthusiastic to promoting development efforts in the Nile Basin Countries.
Egypt's Participation in Joint Projects with Nile Basin Countries for the Utilization of the Nile Waters in Development Projects
The African sphere is a mainstay of Egypt's foreign policy, as the continent is correlated with Egypt's strategic interests on the political, cultural and socio-economic levels. Egypt's good relations with the Nile Basin Countries and the extension of the Nile River within those countries highlight the depth of Egypt's relations with the African countries in general and with the Nile Basin Countries in particular.
So, Egypt deals with the Nile Basin Countries as one geographic unit, thus it is keen on their development in a way that realizes the countries' interests within a framework of cooperation not competition, so as to transform the River Nile to a development area for the benefit of those countries.
Egypt believes that cooperation among the Nile Basin Countries is the only way to protect the environment of the River and realize a continuous and sustainable development. That leads to an economic process and consequently creates a favourable political environment, avoids competition and atmosphere of confrontation so as to make the Nile a connecting factor among the Nile Basin Countries and among their peoples.
Egypt's Projects in the Upper Nile Region
The Charter of Integration between Egypt and the Sudan is the first of its kind. The most important results of that Charter are as follows:-
1- The Jonglei Canal Project in Bahr al- Jabal and Bahr az- Zaraf Area
It aims to prevent wasting water in the swamps of this area, due to evaporation,which is estimated to be about 15 billion cubic meters. However the project stopped because of the security situation in the region.
2- The Mashar Swamps Project
It aims to collect the lost water from Mashar swamps and Sobat River as the latter losses about 4 billion cubic meters in one course.
3- The Northern Bahr al- Ghazal Project
It is a great swamp where water moves slowly, thus leading to the loss of great amount by evaporation. Bahr el Ghazal's total area is 521 square kilometers. This project depends on digging a canal to collect water in the northern part of Bahr al- Ghazal and convey it to the White Nile.
4- The Southern Bahr al- Ghazal Project
It also aims at digging a canal to collect the rivers waters in the south of Bahr al- Ghazal, and divert them eastward to Bahr al-Jabal at Chambi Village. The quantity of disbursed water in northern and southern regions is 12 (BCM) per annum.
- These projects are related to other ones undertaken by Egypt, such as storage projects in the equatorial lakes, lakes Victoria, Kyoga and Albert. These projects will save about 15 (BCM) divided between Egypt and Sudan.
- Moreover, Egypt participates with Ethiopia and Uganda in the execution of some projects and establishing power generation stations. In addition, there is a full grouping composed of engineers, scientists, experts, technicians, administrators besides disinfection and maintenance equipment that disinfect the river courses and the tributaries that supply the Nile with water throughout the year at the Egyptian government's expense. This mission also writes periodical reports on the weather, climate, rainfalls and their rates over the year, that are submitted to the governments of the Nile Basin Countries.
Egypt also financed the following projects:
1. Assessment of available water resources and their most important uses.
2. Revision and improvement of domestic development and water management planning.
3. Assessment of the impact of climate change, drought, water resources, the Basin water quality and discussing the means to mitigate this impact.
4. Determining the water balance of Lake Victoria.
5. Basins and swamps projects.
6. Drawing an atlas of the Nile Basin Countries to provide the Basic data on water resources in the Basin on geographical basis.
7. Water management project via standardizing ways of water resources assessment and management and creating a unified system for information and data in the Basin region.
8. Raising the efficiency of specialized institutions for integrated planning for water resources.
9. Identifying and supporting the experts centers in the region to attain their participation in the implementation of the plan of action.
10. Revising, supporting, and promoting the capabilities of institutions specialized in environment protection in the Basin region.
For the prevention of water contamination, Egypt has taken the following measures:
1- Treating of sanitary drainage water and industrial wastewater according to the established criteria prior to its discharge into the water bodies. This is to maintain the quality of fresh water as a source for drinking water, and to reduce the growth of aquatic plants that impede the ability of watercourses of self-treatment and affect the quality of irrigation water and the preservation of the fish wealth.
2- Preventing any contamination in Lake Nasser, whether due to soil erosion or to other contaminants that accelerate the ageing of the Lake. If agriculture on the Lake coasts helps fix the soil and prevent its erosion, yet other developmental activities may have a negative environmental impact on the short and long terms.
3- Establishing sanitary drainage stations equipped with means of water treatment in areas deprived of that facility as the contamination of subterranean water is attributed mostly to unsafe disposal of wastes on the surface of the Earth which in turn, negatively affects the quality of subterranean water and increases the costs of its treatment and preparation for drinking purposes and household uses.
4- Protecting sea coasts from contamination by activating and applying laws of environmental protection as an environmental demand in the first place, in addition to being one of the main factors for promoting tourism and entertainment.
5- Stressing the importance of treating drainage water in a way that makes it re-usable in irrigation and in the fish farms of the Northern Lake with the aim of increasing water resources and protecting them from contamination.
Egyptian Projects Implemented Through the Ages for Water Resources Utilization
Since ancient times, Egyptians have been closely associated with the River Nile. They regarded it as the fountainhead of life on their land. On the banks of this great river, Egyptians discovered agriculture, learned how to grow plants and domesticate animals. Thereupon, they succeeded in the establishment of the oldest civilization in history.
Egypt and its time-honoured civilization have been always correlated with agriculture; thus, the Egyptians invented the agricultural machines and irrigation equipment. Furthermore, on the walls of their temples, ancient Egyptians paid due attention to depicting scenes of farming and agricultural processes; including ploughing, irrigation, harvesting and storage; and they laid down the bases of the agricultural calendar. Egypt then was the first country to plant crops according to specific charts.
In Egypt the agricultural activity has been the mainstay of civilization and economy throughout successive ages. In the Ptolemaic era, the area of cultivated lands was expanded and crops were diversified. Ptolemaic Kings paid attention to irrigation, regulated water uses, dug canals and streams, built bridges and drilled wells in desert areas.
In Egypt, during the Islamic era, large canals were dug, embankments and barrages were built, and more lands were reclaimed. During the Ottoman era, Egypt witnessed a breakthrough in the field of agriculture and irrigation. Many major irrigation projects such as, canals, barrages and dams were constructed. This resulted in the availability of water supply necessary to convert much of the agricultural land from Basin to perennial irrigation.Hence, the cultivable lands expanded. The most important irrigation projects implemented are: the construction of Delta Barrages in 1861 as well as digging Al-Baheri, Al-Tawfeqi and Al-Menoufi Rayahs in addition to hundreds of canals. In 1902, Aswan Reservoir was built and later enlarged twice. In 1908 and 1920,Isna and Nag'a Hamadi Barrages were constructed respectively. Thus, the area of cultivated lands increased from 2 million feddans in 1813 to 5 million faddans at the early 50s of the past century .
As the July 23, 1952 Revolution took place, Egypt has taken its first steps on the path of giant irrigation projects of which the High Dam was the greatest construction project implemented over the last century and throughout the Egyptian history. It is a turning point in Egypt's agricultural history and the beginning of the modern Egyptian industry. Since the beginning of water storage in High Dam Lake (Lake Nasser) in 1964, this giant project has succeeded in regulating the River Nile waters and in controlling their flow into the sea. In addition to achieving Egypt's water security which contributed to the expansion of agricultural development projects, from 5.2 million feddans in the 1950s to 5.8 million feddans in the 1970s.
The march of agricultural development has proceeded as the annual average of agricultural growth rose from 2.6% in the 1980s to 3.4% in the 1990s and 3.6% in 2006/07. Moreover, the area of agricultural land rose to 2.3 million feddans during that period. Egypt broke through towards the establishment of giant agricultural expansion projects that contribute to an increase of 1.4 million feddans and an increase in the populated area from 5.5% to 25% of Egypt's area, in addition to redrawing the map of Egypt's population after creating new urban communities.
In addition to the above mentioned strengthening of sustainable development, Egypt has embarked on the execution of a series of mega national projects. These projects aim at drawing a new urban and production map that achieves parallel development among Egypt's different regions and secures the optimum use of all our unexploited resources in desert areas that include the same natural elements.
These projects are mainly located in southern Egypt , the Suez Canal region, and Sinai and will contribute to creating new urban communities in the depths of the Egyptian deserts, outside the narrow valley. Thus contribute to the reduction of population density in the Nile Valley and increase the populated area from 5.3% to 25% of Egypt's total area. Furthermore, this chain of giant projects gives rise to the establishment of agricultural, industrial, tourist and mining productive projects and provides opportunities for investment.
Water Resource Projects:
1 - Toshka Project
Toshka project is designed to create a second Nile Valley in the south of the Western Desert. It adds 540,000 feddans to the cultivated area and is irrigated by Nile waters via El-Sheikh Zayed Canal which quota is around 5.5 billion cubic meters per year. It comprises various economic activities with a total investment cost of around LE 4.1 billion.
2 - East Owainat Project
East Owainat project, the biggest agricultural development project in the Southern Valley, lies in the southwestern part of Egypt's Western Desert. The project aims to add 230,000 feddans to the cultivated area, irrigated completely by groundwater reservoir located in the project area.
Moreover, clean agricultural techniques are applied to produce pollutant-free (organic) crops for exportation. Scientific methods have been applied in selecting crops, on top of which are: potatoes, medicinal herbs, fruits and grains that suit regional climate. The project yields have been promising and are for exportation. Investments in the project are estimated at LE 3.5 billion.
3 - As-Salam Canal Project
One of the most important mega development projects. It helps add 620,000 feddans to the cultivated area irrigated by a mixture of the Nile water and agricultural drainage water. The Canal and its branches extend over a length of 262 km.
As-Salam Canal project is divided into two phases:
First Phase: (West of Suez Canal) as- Salam Canal extends at a length of 87 km from the River Nile till the Suez Canal. It serves 220,000 feddans and passes through 5 governorates: Damietta, Daqahliya, Sharqiya, Ismailia and Port Said.
Second Phase: (East of the Suez Canal in Sinai) this phase includes establishing as-Salam Lake culvert below the Suez Canal to transfer the Nile water to Sinai. It also includes digging el-Sheikh Jaber Lake in Sinai at a total length of 86.5 km. The total lengths of the lakes and their branches are 175 km and serve an area of 400,000 feddans in Sinai.
4 - Al-Ein Es-Sokhna New Port
It lies near the Suez Gulf entrance, with a- 5- km- front overlooking the Gulf. It consists of a 4-km-canal that links the main passage route of the Suez Canal to the new port that comprises 4 basins; each accommodates ships with 130,000 tons capacity. The total costs of the port are LE 750 billion.
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