The looming water shortage

15-12-2011 10:12 AM

Lucy Awad

The global financial crisis, the manifestations of which are becoming increasingly apparent with the passage of time, has placed the entire world economy in jeopardy. As to countries suffering from water poverty, the challenges threatening development are more pertinent, and the need to boost technology and science even more urgent.
To address challenges of development and water shortage, Alexandria recently hosted a two-day conference on “Technology and Development Prospects in the 21st century”. The conference was held under the auspices of Alexandria governor Adel Labib and organised by the Arab-European Cooperation Centre. A host of private and public institutions took part in the conference.

Green technology
At the outset, the conference chairman Mustafa al-Fiqi, who is also chairman of Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee, talked about technology and development. He indicated that technology was a process aimed at employing science to serve industry, while development was a process mobilising human and natural resources for the sake of upgrading living conditions.
“Egypt has not lagged behind when it comes to coping with technological development,” al-Fiqi said. “Yet what is really needed is to create a unified technological approach. Upgrading education is the cornerstone to prepare new generations to use and develop technology.”
Samy al-Guindy, a chemist and the conference coordinator, said Egypt was in dire need of advanced technology, particularly ‘green technology’, to preserve peace and boost development. The intelligent use of advanced technology was the only way for Egypt to pass through the bottleneck, he said.
Media specialist Professor Susan Qillini, the secretary-general of the Arab-European Cooperation Centre, stressed the relevance of exploring ways to use advanced technology in different domains.

Forever dependent
“As Egyptians and Arabs we will remain dependent on the West forever without a well-studied technological plan,” Dr Qillini said. “Egypt is planning to use technology in areas of irrigation, dams, water resources, metals, and satellite.”
The presentation delivered by Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, focused on the relationship between water and development. He stressed that ‘water was the most important development component. “Water is the source of life and it will remain so until the end of human history,” he said. He added that current conflicts over water resources signified how critical the situation had become, and he predicted future wars for water. Science and technology was the only way to settle water disputes through rationalising the use of water for both irrigation and human consumption, Dr Abu-Zeid said.

Water supply
Egypt has a water resources strategy for the period up to 2050. The plan is to reconsider the current method of water exploitation in Egypt. Apart from the Nile water, the country has two sources of groundwater. There are wells in the Nile Valley and the Delta, where water is renewable and expected to provide five to 11 million square metres in the future. The second is in the Eastern and Western deserts, where water is not renewable and supplies could dry up when a certain limit is surpassed.
Groundwater in South Sinai is limited except in certain areas. It is very deep, and hence costly to pump up, but Egypt has to use it to assert its water rights in this area. The Salam Canal is pivotal in this case, since it draws its water from the Nile and thus enables the cultivation of 600,000 feddans.
Egypt is keen to ameliorate relations with the Nile Basin countries to ward off threats to Egyptian water security, and soon it will be signing accords to organise the use of Nile water. Investors are invited to contribute to the development process, but the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources will not allow any transgressions threatening groundwater in the Nile Delta’.
Dr Abu Zeid denied claims that the Toshka project had failed and said it needed time to prove its success, and literally to bear fruit.

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