Monday, 11 July 2011

2010-2020 United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight against desertification - Climate change, population growth and the intensive use of fertile soils put Egypt among the countries at risk

The United Nations launched the Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification almost one year ago on 16 August 2010. Between January 2010 and December 2020 A number of projects and actions will be launched to promote the protection of world's drylands and avoid the further deterioration and degradation of these territories into deserts.

Only about 3 percent of Egypt's land area is cultivated but desertification, and construction work fuelled by economic activity and a rapidly growing population, are eating into this resource, posing a significant threat to domestic food production, according to experts. A rapidly increasing population - expected to reach 123 million in 2029, from 85 million at present - will make it harder for Egypt to meet its food needs.

Fertile soil in green
"Desertification is the real danger everybody should pay attention to," Abdel Rahman Attia, a professor of agriculture at Cairo University, told IRIN.

Egypt loses an estimated 11,736 hectares of agricultural land every year and also rising sea levels  pose a threat to agricultural land, causing intrusion of seawater into groundwater, and reducing agricultural productivity.
The country imports more than 60 percent of its food, and about 768,903 hectares of agricultural land in the north Delta region has been lost to rising ground water, poor drainage practices and encroaching sand dunes over the decades, he added.
Thousands of acres of agricultural land have also been lost to construction. According to Ismail Abdel Galil, the former chairman of Egypt's Desert Research Centre, said studies showed that just over a hectare of fertile land in the Nile Valley is lost every hour because of construction on agricultural land.

Egypt signed the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in 1994, subsequently banning the use of top soil as a raw material for red bricks, taking measures to restrict urban development on arable land, and regulating irrigation systems. But despite this, the combination of dwindling farmland and
Increasing desertification has also affected water availability. Egypt's 55.5 billion cubic metre share of Nile water is already insufficient to satisfy the country's growing needs.

Agriculture is responsible for 85 percent of water consumption in Egypt, according to the country's state of the environment report. Egypt's water problems are expected to get worse as upstream countries like Ethiopia and Uganda, which also have rapidly growing populations, push for a greater share of the water to satisfy their own needs.

More info:
Irin News
Potential rise of seawater in the Nile Delta

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