The European Union on Sunday affirmed support for the Egyptian efforts in facing water challenges while the North African country revealed its problems related to the “scarcity” of water resources.
“Egypt is one of the driest countries in the world,” said Egypt’s Minister of Water and Irrigation Dr. Hani Sewilam. He noted that his country depends almost exclusively on the Nile water that comes from outside the borders.
The Minister was speaking at a celebration organized in Cairo by the European Union Delegation to Egypt in collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation to mark the World Water Day 2023 under the theme “Accelerating Change” to solve water and sanitation problems.
“Egypt takes serious steps to face water challenges as per capita water share reaches about 500 cubic meters annually while the United Nations put water poverty at 1,000 cubic meters annually,” Sewilam said.
Egypt’s water scarcity is aggravated by its dispute with Ethiopia regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Egypt fears that its share of the waters of the Nile will be affected by the GERD that Ethiopia has been building since 2011 on the main tributary of the river.
Cairo is calling for a binding legal agreement that regulates the filling and operation of the dam, while Ethiopia is pushing for the construction of the hydroelectric dam, claiming its right to development by exploiting its water resources.
Egypt has been engaged in negotiations for more than a decade with Ethiopia and Sudan but no progress was made.
On Sunday, Sewilam said the Egyptian state carried out many mega national projects to improve the quality of water and rationalize its use through the establishment of giant water treatment plants.
For his part, Ambassador Christian Berger, head of the EU Delegation to Egypt spoke about the threats that “endanger our water, from climate change to plastic pollution.”
He said that, unprecedented in the history of humankind, water has become a geopolitical issue, a strategic good, that can trigger migration, hamper food security, and even cause wars.
The Ambassador said that during the next decade, the average portion of Nile water for every person will decrease by 22%, only due to population growth. This might lead to a significant danger to water quality, and hence the overall quality of life, he stressed.
In response to these challenges, Berger said the EU keeps supporting the Egyptian government, especially in the water sector.
“With more than €550 million in grants, leveraging concessional funds of nearly €3 billion thanks to European Financial Institutions, we have been supporting the response to these challenges since 2007,” he said.
Berger added that the EU has co-funded programs that cover 16 Egyptian governorates, providing jobs, mainly in rural areas. “This shall help improve the quality of life for nearly 20 million inhabitants in Egypt,” he affirmed.