12 Million Egyptians to be Affected by Climate Changeby Mohamed Abdel Salam, January 2, 2010
Cairo: A study conducted by the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, commissioned by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development, warned that Egypt would be one of the Arab countries most affected by climate change. The study analyzed a variety of scenarios of climate change impact, particularly on coastal areas, based on satellite images of the region, and showed that Egypt would be the most affected Arab country due to a rise in sea levels. The study stated that, “at least 12 million Egyptians will be forced to migrate from their area of residence in parts of the Nile Delta and that with a rise in sea level of 5 meters, almost one third of the total affected Arab population would be Egyptian."
The study was prepared by Dr. Eman Ghoneim, a research professor at the Center for Remote Sensing, and devoted a large portion of its findings to the impact of rising sea levels in the Nile Delta. The study warned, “under the scenarios of rising sea levels, much of the Nile Delta would be lost forever, and the analysis by the remote sensing and geographic information system classified some areas in the Nile Delta at risk if sea levels rise by one meter.” The report estimated that a rise of only one meter could engulf much of the Nile Delta. With about one third of the Delta area underwater, some of its coastal cities, such as Alexandria, Edco, Port Said and Damietta, would be in great danger. Under this scenario, it is estimated that about 8.5% of the country’s population (7 million) would be forced to migrate to other areas.
The study added, “In the extreme case scenario of a 5-meter sea level rise, more than half of the Nile Delta (58%) will face devastating effects and 10 major cities would be threatened, including Alexandria, Damanhur, Kafr El-Sheikh, Damietta, Mansoura and Port Said. Rising water would drown productive plots of agricultural land and force about 14% of the country’s population (11.5 million) to move to areas of the more densely populated areas south of the Nile Delta region.”
The study went on to say that “the Nile Delta, which covers about 24,900 square kilometers, and accounts for about 65% of agricultural land in Egypt, was once the largest site for sediment deposits in the basin of the Mediterranean Sea. It is an extreme example of low, flat land located in an area that is very vulnerable to rising sea levels.” The Delta is threatened due to accelerated erosion of the coastline and the establishment of the Aswan High Dam in 1962, which subsequently sequestered large amounts of sediment behind the dam in Lake Nasser.
The study showed that coastal erosion of the Delta as a result of natural causes and the extraction of groundwater can be seen in satellite images, especially near the coastal cities of Rosetta and Damietta. The analysis of satellite images shows that the Ras Rashid “Rosetta” lost almost 9.5 square kilometers of area. Likewise, the coastline retreated 3 km in the last 30 years (1972-2003), meaning that this part of the Delta declined at the alarming rate of about 100 meters per year.
Study also discussed the consequences of climate change on the Arab region as a whole, including the impact of rising sea levels and its effects on the growth of cities, stating that the southern part of the Nile Delta is now suffering from uncontrolled population growth in the city of Cairo. The results also showed a loss of about 12% (62 square kilometers) of the agricultural areas adjacent to Cairo between 1984 and 2002.