WATER EXPERTS RECOMMEND MORE EFFORTS TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE IN URBAN AREAS

WATER EXPERTS RECOMMEND MORE EFFORTS TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE IN URBAN AREAS

On the sidelines of The Big 5 Construct Egypt, the Arab Water Council pointed out that the effects of climate change will cost the region USD 75 billion over the course of the next decade.

Speakers:

  • Prof. Khaled M. Abuzeid, Director of Technical Programs, Arab Water Council
  • H.E. Dr. Hussein El Atfy, Former Minister of Water Resources & Irrigation-Egypt & Secretary General, Arab Water Council
  • H.E. Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, Former Minister of Water Resources & Irrigation-Egypt & President, Arab Water Council

Theme: Sustainability and Technology

The session tackled the consequences of climate change on informal urban areas, proposed steps for reducing and controlling the impact of climate change, as well as the role of policymakers in combating heat stress, food security and other drastic effects of environmental changes. The session was the first of a series of comparable workshops taking place as part of The Big 5 Construct Egypt, many of which discussed measures for sustainability.

Prof. Khaled M. Abuzeid, Director of Technical Programs, Arab Water Council

Abuzeid highlighted the importance of facing the impact of climate change on urban communities, particularly in light of rapid changes taking place in the modern world. Climate change is one of the major challenges we are facing in the twenty-first century, he affirmed.

On a global scale, the impact of record-high temperatures is materializing as natural disasters have become all too common, he said, whereas on a nationwide scale, we will soon witness how rising sea levels will affect coastal cities, lead to losses in the delta, and potentially result in significant displacement.

Prof. Khaled M. Abuzeid, Director of Technical Programs, Arab Water Council
Prof. Khaled M. Abuzeid, Director of Technical Programs, Arab Water Council
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On a more positive note, Abuzeid said that Alexandria and the North Coast will not be heavily affected in the foreseeable future by rising sea levels (globally estimated at between 0.5 and 1.5 meters) since this area is more elevated than other, more vulnerable areas.

Abuzeid emphasized that the government, community associations, and the public are all crucial stakeholders in measures for mitigation and awareness, helping adequately plan and reduce the risk of natural disasters.

H.E. Dr. Hussein El Atfy, Former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation-Egypt and Secretary General, Arab Water Council

El Atfy lauded the role events such as The Big 5 Construct Egypt play in making it possible to discuss and benefit from success stories and comparable case studies. Additionally, they help drive investment interest in Egypt.

He noted that policymakers are particularly pressured on climate change, driven by its effects on vulnerable communities, who find it most difficult to adapt. Food security, migration, environmental disasters, and other issues are among the major effects of climate change in the Arab World; climate change is the biggest threat to development and SDGs goal 13 calls for urgent action on that front.

H.E. Dr. Hussein El Atfy, Former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation-Egypt and Secretary General, Arab Water Council
H.E. Dr. Hussein El Atfy, Former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation-Egypt and Secretary General, Arab Water Council
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The Arab world is particularly vulnerable to drought, an important realization to keep in mind since Egypt could often be subject to dry weather conditions. Further effects of climate change would lead to a rise in food prices as water resources in the region decline, he warned, stating projections of a 10-50% reduction in water resources in Syria, Jordan and Morocco. However, the Arab League is taking initiatives to deal with this. Regional success stories include Masdar, a sustainable city in the UAE entirely run within the framework of green policies. We need climate change to be part of the policymaking agenda, he concluded.

H.E. Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, Former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation-Egypt and President, Arab Water Council

Abu Zeid highlighted the Alexandria 2030 IUWM Strategic Plan, presenting an integrated manner for managing water resources with a vision for providing quality, affordable, domestic water supply. The plan emphasizes the use of non-conventional water resources such as rain and treated wastewater as well as water demand management, furthering green as opposed to gray infrastructure for resource efficiency.

By 2030, Alexandria’s population will reach an estimated 6 million during the low season and 8 million in summertime.  Alexandria is also the last city on the longest river in the world, which further adds to its vulnerability climate change. Interestingly, Abu Zeid noted that studies project a 20% decrease in rainfall in the Arab World.

H.E. Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, Former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation-Egypt and President, Arab Water Council
H.E. Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, Former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation-Egypt and President, Arab Water Council
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Abu Zeid said that the plan emphasizes water demand and supply management strategies such as implementing water-saving technology in households, developing tourist venues and government facilities, tariff reform, and promoting the efficiency of irrigation in agriculture. The costs of such measures are almost a fifth of regular “business as usual” strategies.