While most of the topography of the Middle East is dry, barren, and filled with vast deserts, Egypt however, has the famous Nile river running through it thus providing for a varying landscape that differs quite greatly from most of its neighbors. Egypt definitely is a desert which sets a backdrop for the pyramids, but the areas bordering the river are green and lush providing for a diverse landscape.
Even though Egypt has the Nile river which provides a huge amount of water and irrigation to the region, there has been political mishandling of water sources causing water scarcity in recent years. Poor and uneven water distribution and inefficient irrigation techniques are major key factors that affect water security in Egypt presently. The Nile River serves the country’s industrial and agricultural demand as well as serves as the primary source of drinking water for the citizens. How can one river provide so much without having some negative effects or drawbacks?
Along with the increasing population, which was talked about in a previous blog, as well as rapid economic development, and constant changing politics there has been an increase in pollution and environmental degradation which is threatening Egypt’s accessibility to water which in turns threatens Egypt’s future.
Major Factors Affecting Water Security
There are a variety of factors that affects Egypt’s’ Water security but one of the biggest ones is the rising regional political conflicts and battles over water resources. According to the Japan Times, “Egypt stands out as having the largest population at risk and being the country, other than Iraq and Yemen, with the most existential hydrologic problem.As every schoolchild learns, Egypt is the gift of the Nile and the Nile is by far the globe’s longest river. Less well known is that most of the Nile’s volume, 90 percent, comes from the highlands of Ethiopia and that the river passes through 11 countries. For uncounted eons, its water flowed to Egypt in uncounted quantities.” (2)
Why is this a problem you may be thinking? Well, Ethiopia realized that much of their water leaves their land, therefore they want to constrict the water supply downstream and build a dam called the Grand Ethiopian Resistance Damn or (GERD). This is a problem because “86 percent of Egypt’s water originates in Ethiopia” (2) meaning that if the supply is stifled, not cut off, just lessened, it can put Egypt’s entire population at risk. Both Burundi and Ethiopia which share the Nile have been taking advantage of Egypt’s unstable politics and have been working to guarantee their share of the Nile as each country in the region is facing some kind of water scarcity and environmental degradation because of it.
As their political government has been changing from almost year to year, there has been a huge impact on the river due to lack of laws and environmental regulation. For example, pollution from agricultural runoffs, industrial effluents, and municipal sewage are being recklessly dumped into the Nile River, gradually making its water unfit for human consumption. (1) Sewage water from slums and many other areas in Cairo is discharged into the river untreated due to lack of water treatment plants which can affect the crops that the water is eventually used for irrigation thus polluting crops as well.
As long as Egypt’s population continues to grow and government stays mostly unstable, there will be huge effects down the line for Egypt and it’s future existence. Currently, there needs to be long-term planning and regional agreements with nearby countries so that all of the region can continue to share these limited resources in a way that can enable all of their survival, rather than just ensure a temporary survival for the one or few.
- (1) http://www.ecomena.org/egypt-water/
- (2) http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/02/25/commentary/world-commentary/can-egypt-ethiopia-share-nile-river/
- (3) http://egyptianchronicles.blogspot.com/2013/06/cairo-universitys-report-on-ethiopias.html
- (4) Richards, Alan, John Waterbury, Ishac Diwan, and Melani Cammett. A Political Economy of the Middle East. Boulder: Westview, 2015. Print