أزمه المياه في مصر

تعاني مصر في السنوات الاخيرة من شح شديد في المياه و يعد توزيع المياه غير المتكافئ و اساءه استخدام موارد المياه وتقنيات الري غير الفعاله بعض العوامل الرئيسيه التي تلعب دورا مدمرا للأمن المائي فيالبلاد.

يعد نهر النيل شريان الحياة في مصر حيث  يغطي متطلبا ت الزراعة و الصناعه و هو المصدر الرئيسيلمياه الشرب للسكان. ان ارتفاع معدلات النمو السكاني و التنمية الاقتصادية السريعة  في دول حوض النيل  بالإضافة الى التلوث و التدهور  البيئي آخذُ باستنزاف الموارد المائية في مصر.

 و تواجه مصر   عجزا مائيا يقدر  بسبع بليون متر مكعب سنويا .وفي حقيقة الامر فإن الامم المتحدة قد حذرت من نفاذ المياه في مصر بحلول عام 2025.

دعونا نلقي نظره فاحصه على العوامل الرئيسيه التي تؤثر على الامن المائي في مصر.

الانفجار السكاني

ان العدد السكاني في مصر اّخذ بالتكاثر بمعدل ينذر بالخطر , ولقد زاد بنسبه 41 بالمئه منذ بداية التسعينيات. تشير التقارير الاخيرة من قبل الحكومة الى ان حوالي 4,700   حديثي الولادة تضاف الى عدد السكان كل أسبوع و تشير التوقعات المستقبليه  الى ان عدد السكان سيرتفع من 80 مليون الى 98.7 مليون بحلول عام 2025.

ان الزيادة السكانية السريعة من شأنها ان تضاعف الضغط على الامداد المائي من خلال زيادة الاحتياجات المائية  للاستهلاك المحلي و زيادة استخدام مياه الري  لتلبيه الطلب على الغذاء.

الري غير الفعال

تحصل مصر على نسبه اقل من 80 ملم من الهطول المطري سنويا,وتعد ما نسبته 6 بالمئه من اراضيها فقط صالحا للزراعة وما تبقى فهو صحراء.وهذا بدوره  يؤدي الى الافراط في الري واستخدام تقنيات الري المسرف كالري السطحي ( الري بالغمر) و هي طريقه قديمه للري حيث يتم اغراق القطعة الزراعيه بالمياه.

في الوقت الحالي,فان شبكة الري تستمد بالكامل من سد اسوان العالي و هذا بدوره ينظم اكثر من 18,000 ميل من القنوات الرئيسية و القنوات الفرعيه التي تروي الاراضي الزراعيه المجاوره للنهر. يعد هذا النظام غير فعال , حيث يقدر معدل الفاقد من مياه النيل بفعل التبخر 3 مليارات متر مكعب سنويا . ان من شأن  انخفاض الامداد المائي  ان يقود الى انخفاض الاراضي الصالحة للزراعة و حيث ان قطاع الزراعه يشكل اكبر رب عمل للشباب فان شح المياه يمكن ان يقود الى زيادة معدلات البطالة.

التلوث

 اصبحت المخلفات الزراعية والنفايات الصناعية السائلة  و مياه الصرف الصحي ُتلقى بغير اهتمام في نهر النيل مما يجعلها تدريجيا غير صالحة للاستهلاك البشري. اضف الى ذلك فإن مياه الصرف الصحي القادمة من الاحياء الفقيرة ومناطق عديدة في القاهره اضحت تفرغ في نهر النيل وذلك لنقص  المحطات المعالجة لتلك المياه.

 تلك المخلفات الزراعية عاده ما تحتوي على ملوثات من مبيدات الحشرات و الاعشاب مما يؤثر سلبا على مياه النهر. كذلك النفايات الصناعية السائله غالبا ما تكون شديدة السميه وتحتوي على معادن ثقيلة و التي يمكن ان تتحد مع المواد الصلبه العالقة في مياه الصرف الصحي لتشكل الوحل. كل هذه العوامل مجتمعه معا من شأنها ان تلوث نهر النيل و تنذر بشؤم للأجيال القادمة.

الاضطرابات الاقليميه

تسيطر مصر على غالبيه الموارد المائية المستخرجه من نهر النيل بمقتضى معاهدة الحقبه الاستعمارية التي تضمن حصة  ما نسبته 90 بالمئه من نهر النيل و تمنع الدول المجاوره لها من الحصول ولو على قطره واحده من النيل من دون الحصول على إذنها .وعلى الرغم من ذلك فان هذا لا يمنع  البلدان الواقعه على نهر النيل  مثل بوروندي و اثيوبيا من استغلال الاضطرابات السياسيه التي تعصف بمصر وكسب المزيد من السيطرة على حقوق  النيل. ورغم ان نهر النيل يزود مصر بما نسبته 95 بالمئه من المياه العذبة   فإن فقدان بعض الامدادات المائية يمكن ان يشكل متاعب إضافيه لمصر.

الختام

إن قضيه المياه في مصر تتصاعد بنسبه مثيره للقلق. بحلول عام 2020 ,سوف تستهلك مصر بما يقدَر 20 بالمئه اكثر  من المياه مما كانت عليه. مع فقدان قبضتها على النيل  فان شح المياه في مصر  من شأنه ان يهدد استقرار البلاد و الهيمنة الاقليميه. و هذا يحتم على الحكومة المصريه و جميع السكان التحرك بسرعة وبشكل حاسم للتخفيف من شح المياه  وتطبيق اساليب و تقنيات اكثر فاعليه للمحافظة على المياه و منع تلوثها  ووضع وتطوير خطط من شأنها السيطرة على تلوث المياه وجعل تقنيات الري اكثر فاعليه و كفاءة و ذلك لتجنب وقوع كارثة.

ترجمة

سلام عبدالكريم عبابنه

مهندسه مدنية في شركة المسار المتحده للمقاولات – مهتمه في مجال البيئه و الطاقة المتجدده

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The Menace of Single-Use Plastic Bags

Single-use plastic bags are one of the most objectionable types of litter in urban areas. The sheer volume of plastic waste generated coupled with energy and material resources required for production, as well as emissions resulting from these processes paint a grim picture of the environmental havoc created by plastic bags. Single-use plastic bags are a huge threat to the environment as an estimated 1 trillion such bags are consumed worldwide every year. In the United Arab Emirates alone, nearly 12 billion plastic bags are used annually.

Major Hazards

Single-use plastic bags are notorious for their interference in natural ecosystems and for causing the death of aquatic organisms, animals and birds. In 2006, The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimated that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean and upto 80 percent of marine debris worldwide is plastic which are responsible for the death of a more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year from starvation, choking or entanglement. Infact, there is a huge floating dump in the Pacific Ocean called the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" which is hundreds of miles wide and consists mostly of plastic debris caught  in the ocean's currents. 

Plastic bags are mistakenly ingested by animals, like cows and camels, clogging their intestines which results in death by starvation. In addition, plastic bags clog urban drainage systems and contribute to flooding, as witnessed in Mumbai, Dhaka and Manila in recent decades. Moreover, toxic chemicals from single-use bags can enter the food chain when they are ingested by animals and birds.

Unfortunately only a small percentage of these bags are recycled each year, and most float about the landscape and create a tremendous expense in clean-up costs. Several countries, regions, and cities have enacted legislation to ban or severely reduce the use of disposable plastic shopping bags. Plastic bags litter serves as a floating transportation agent that enables alien species to move to new parts of the world thus threatening biodiversity.

Plausible Solutions

The hazards of single-use plastic bag can be mitigated by raising environmental awareness among communities. Many municipalities in the Gulf region are targeting shopping malls and grocery stores to reduce dependence on single-use plastic bags. Environmental education at workplaces, schools and residential areas is a vital tool in the fight against plastic bags. Empowering people to take proactive actions and encouraging them to be a part of the solution can also be helpful in reducing the reliance on single-use plastic bags.

Municipalities can make use of 5Rs of waste management – Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover – to encourage safe disposal of plastic bags which may be facilitated by mass deployment of plastic bag collection systems and recycling facilities at strategic locations. Some of the alternatives are cloth-based bags, such as jute and cotton, which biodegradable as well as reusable. Infact, the range of durable fabric shopping bags is growing each year in the Western countries, including those that can be conveniently folded up into a pocket.

The introduction of ‘plastic bags tax’ can also be a handy weapon in restricting use of single-use plastic bags in the Middle East. For example, Ireland introduced a plastic bag charge called PlasTax ten years ago which has virtually eliminated plastic bags in the country. 

Regional Initiatives

The Middle East region has been slow in gearing up to the challenges posed by single-use plastic bags, though governments have been trying to raise public awareness aimed at behavioral change. The Ministry of Environment and Water in UAE launched an initiative called “UAE free of plastic bags” in 2009 to maintain the health of the natural habitat and enhance the environmental standards of the state. The Dubai Municipality has also launched an ambitious “No to Plastic Bags” campaign to slash 500 million plastic bags. There are similar efforts, but small-scale, efforts in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait to encourage clean-up campaigns in seas, deserts and citites. In Egypt, the Red Sea (Hurghada) is the first plastic bag free governorate having introduced a ban in 2009 which generated employment opportunities for women who have been charged with creating cloth bags in the place of plastic bags.

 

About the Authors

Eaman Abdullah Aman is MRLS graduate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Policy with a specialization certificate in Energy Law and Policy from Denver University, USA. Her expertise encompasses international petroleum transactions, petroleum contracts and agreements, international petroleum investment operations, energy policy and economics of natural resources law and policy. She has rich knowledge on issues related to climate change mitigation, environmental law and policy, environmental ethics, energy security, sustainable development etc.

Salman Zafar is the Founder of EcoMENA and a renowned expert in waste management, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainability. He is widely acknowledged as an authority on environment and sustainability sector in the Middle East and proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on clean energy, environment and sustainability through his websites, blogs, articles and projects. Salman can be contacted on salman@ecomena.org.

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Reuse and Recycling of Textbooks

For every academic term or semester, thousands of new textbooks are being printed, bought and used. On the other hand, almost the same number of textbooks and course material are being discarded after its use and find its way to the garbage bins ultimately landing at the landfill site where they are being buried, compacted and disposed occupying precious land area. Usually these textbooks are not being reused or recycled generating huge quantities of paper waste.

In many of the private schools, the textbooks have to be bought in every term due to change in edition or minor revisions putting an extra burden on parents to buy the new books that cannot be used for their other children in coming years. Due to rise in standard of living, it is not a common sight that the text books are being donated, exchanged, re-used or utilized by other family members. Such practices are yielding more generation of paper waste.

A Novel Initiative in Bahrain

The recent initiative taken by Bahrain’s Ministry of Education is laudable whereby the textbooks have to be returned by the students after completion of the academic year and will be reused for the incoming students. Reuse of textbooks will conserve resources, finances and will generate less paper waste besides educating the children to reuse and recycle and taking care of the environment. Some private initiatives have also being launched to support needy students by providing free textbooks to them to be collected from students and parents. It is expected that around 1,000 of these book sets will be distributed to students, while those deemed unusable will be recycled as part of a dual program being operated by the organization in Bahrain.

In addition to books, poor students will also get free stationery including notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, rulers and sharpeners. There is a greater need that text books are shared and re-utilized while establishing a culture of environmental responsibility. Though such practices are being done at individual level, it needs to be done at community and at school level. Text book collection boxes are to be kept and maintained at school level by the school authorities or by the parent teachers association or any NGO. In addition, students should be made responsible towards protecting the environmental resources.

The Way Forward

In almost all developed countries, there are book banks and libraries from where the text/ course books can be purchased both used and un-used one and can be returned or resold after use. Many online shops are available which deliver the books at nominal cost. In addition, many charity, community and non-governmental organizations set up text books bins, booths and boxes for such purpose of books collection and re-utilization. In line with the Government initiative, all private schools and vocational institutions should also initiate the text book re-utilization and recycling programs.

Reuse of textbooks will not only conserve the environment but also help in educating children in less-privileged communities.

Reuse of textbooks will not only help in environmental conservation but also help in education of children in less-privileged countries.[/caption]

The local charities and area committees can also include text book collection/ donation program within their scope, which then needs to be publicized by the local media enabling students and their parents to generously donate these books for further re-use within the country or can be exported out to other poor neighboring countries where cost of books prohibit the children to go to school. Such habits and awareness of conserving environmental resources will go a long way in inculcating environmental related habits in our younger generation who will take charge of this planet in near future.

An Environmental Message

We need to understand that it takes around three tons of trees to make one ton of paper which also utilize huge quantity of water per ton than any other product in the world. Paper making also produces high levels of air and water pollution which can be avoided. Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees and 7,000 gallons of water. It takes one tree to make 25 books.

By recycling our books, we are giving that tree a new purpose and reducing deforestation. It is suggested that schools should hold semi-annual book sales to clear out old inventory. Special bins/ containers for these books are to be made and appropriately placed in schools. We need to clear our shelves, and get unused books back into circulation.

We need to understand that recycling is a responsibility of today for a better tomorrow.

Guide to Green Hajj

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is an annual pilgrimage to Makkah. It is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims which must be carried out at least once in lifetime by every adult Muslim who is physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey. The Hajj gathering is considered to be the largest gathering of people in the world whereby Muslims from many countries converge to do the religious rites.  Nearly three million Muslims perform Hajj each year. Making necessary arrangements each year for the growing number of pilgrims poses a gigantic logistic challenge for the Saudi Government and respective Authorities, as housing, transportation, sanitation, food and health care needs are to be provided to the pilgrims.

Environmental Footprint

The Hajj has an enormous environmental footprint. During Hajj, huge quantities of wastes are generated which needs to be appropriately collected, handled and managed. Other impacts are of water use and wastewater generation and treatment, transporting vehicles causing terrible air pollution damaging the health of the pilgrims, littering causing choking of public infrastructures, plastic bottles, used diapers, food packaging etc. are an eyesore. The problem is compounded due to ignorance, over enthusiasm, illiteracy of pilgrims and lack of commitment to handle the environmental resources.

Unfortunately, majority of the pilgrims are not aware of the innate nature of environmentalism within Islam and obligations of protecting the environment. According to the Quran, humans are entrusted to be the maintainers of the earth, its ecology and environment.The Hajj can be sustainable if the pilgrims behave in an environmental friendly manner and avoid different types of pollution.

A vast majority of Hajj pilgrims are not aware of the innate nature of environmentalism within Islam.

A vast majority of Hajj pilgrims are not aware of the innate nature of environmentalism within Islam.

Towards a Green Hajj

We need to understand that the respective authorities plan, spend and provide facilities to match with the number of pilgrims, but the irresponsible attitude of many people jeopardize the environmental resources. Following aspects will help the pilgrims in making their Hajj greener and help in conservation of resources:

  • Green purchasing, buy what is required and only environmentally–friendly products
  • Using minimum quantity of water for ablution, bath and personal use. Opening water gadgets and tap to allow limited flow. Washing clothes with minimum water.
  • Reporting any water leakages to the Authority.
  • Re-filling and reusing water bottles.
  • Buying food only what you can eat, surplus food should be avoided.
  • Avoiding food packaging.
  • Avoid disposable cutlery, plates, glasses etc.
  • Avoid littering, collecting all waste and disposing it at designated locations. 
  • Avoid using plastic shopping bags.
  • Moving and using group transport facilities.
  • Minimize electricity usage.
  • Avoid leaving lights on in empty rooms.
  • Switching off the chargers, once used.
  • Purchase energy efficient appliances, if required.
  • Avoid using electrical appliances on standby.

The recent Islamic declaration on climate change exhorts us to work steadfastly to minimize our ecological footrpint and make individual pledges to help our planet. Environment is Allah’s creation and has to be respected. Let us make our contribution to the Green Hajj and make a profound impact on the ecosystem, making it more sustainable and manageable and show that Islam is the ideal platform for ecological and environmental preservation.

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Environment as a Peace-Building Tool

The world is changing demographically, economically, politically and environmentally. The acquisition of natural resources, such as water, can be viewed as a threat to the international security. Severe environmental degradation can deepen regional divisions and trigger social conflicts for communities that depend on these resources for their livelihoods and fulfillment of basic needs. Moreover, the environment itself can be dramatically affected by such conflicts.

The unprecedented demand for natural resources is fuelling ethnic conflicts, causing large-scale displacement and is a severe threat to the lands, livelihoods and the way of life of indigenous people. Infact, many of the bloodiest conflicts in Africa and Asia in recent years have been fuelled by profits from the exploitation of natural resources, including diamonds, timber and minerals. Indigenous communities ranging from the Batwa of Central Africa to hill tribes in northern Thailand, Bedouin in the Middle East and Uighurs in China's Xinjiang province face a grave risk of being forced from their land and resources by activities taking place in the name of industrial development.

Locally, tensions over non-extractive natural resources that have an impact on livelihoods can also drive conflicts. Tension can result from the decline of limited sources and inequitable distribution and utilization within a given context; this may spill over into wider instability and violence. In the case of Darfur, one of the reasons that led to violence is competition between herders and farmers over land; historical ethnic divisions compounded this conflict.

A New Approach to Stability

Recognizing the linkages between the environment and insecurity, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for integrating environmental initiatives to solve conflict and instability into the U.N.’s conflict prevention policy. So, if environmental degradation can trigger conflict and violence, then environmental cooperation initiatives can be used as stability-sustaining tools. This can create a dialogue between parties in conflict. Environmental challenges, such as industrial pollution, are global issues that ignore political boundaries. These challenges require a long-term perspective to achieve sustainable management, encourage local and nongovernmental participation, and extend community building beyond the polarization of economic linkages. Furthermore, environment cooperation can build bridges across boundaries and between people, and enhance building a more sustainable peace and stability.

Environmental cooperation can be initial building blocks for increasing confidence and enhancing trust between communities, hence, reducing uncertainties and mitigating tensions. Cooperative sharing of resources encourages common goals, and establishes recognized rights and expectations. Moreover, initiatives of cooperation to manage environmental resources will promote peace between disputing parties and may establish sustained interaction and long-term relationships, encouraging stability. The more environmental initiatives exist, the more conflicts will be resolved in a non-violent manner. Environmental initiatives can be used to initiate dialogue between disputing parties even for non-ecological conflicts.

Shared water supply is an important domain for environmental conflict resolution. Sharing of water resources represents an opportunity to keep the dialogue alive between disputing parties such as in the Nile river case. Management of biodiversity conservation in disputed areas is a major aspect of environmental peace-building strategies. This may help to achieve win-win solutions between local communities. It is worthy to mention that NGOs can enhance the chances of sustainable peace by promoting awareness and motivation of local community participation. Therefore, their influence must be strengthened in policy decisions that are related to environmental security.

Environment and the Arab Spring

In the wake of historic Arab Spring, a new approach to sustainability is required in the Middle East. The Arab world offers a fertile ground and ample opportunities to prepare a sustainable mechanism for peace and regional security using environment as a tool. Traditional tools of conservation, such as Hima and Haram, produce a promising opportunity for environmental synergies in the region.

In order to protect land, forests and wildlife, Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) created inviolable zones in which resources were to be left untouched. Haram areas were drawn up around wells and water sources to protect the groundwater from overpumping. Hima applied to wildlife and forestry and designated an area of land where grazing and woodcutting was restricted, or where certain animal species (such as camels) were protected.

Adopting natural environmental initiatives, such as Hima and Haram, has multiple direct and indirect benefits for development in West Asia. It can enhance trust, build confidence, and reduce uncertainties in the Arab world, which may help in finding an amicable solution to multiple problems faced by this strategic region.

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Litani River: A Sorry State of the Affairs

litani-river-pollutionThe Litani River, the largest river in Lebanon, faces a multitude of environmental problems. Due to decades of neglect and mismanagement, the river has become heavily polluted. The main contributors to the degradation of Litani River are industrial pollution from factories and slaughterhouse, untreated sewage, chemicals from agriculture runoffs and disposal of municipal waste. The pollution has reached such a level where it is obvious to the human eye.

The Litani River is a source of income for many families who use it in summer for many recreational activities; moreover, it is used for irrigation. On the banks of the Litani River, many hydroelectric and electric projects have been set up. The Lebanese government had made a dam that is linked to a hydroelectric power plant of 185MW capacity. The dam had been responsible for the formation of Qaraoun Lake; a polluted man-made lake.

In 2016, the World Bank approved a loan of $55 million to address the wastewater and agricultural runoff along the lake and the river.  The problem of the fund is that they did not give a bigger investment to agricultural runoff. The Litani provides irrigation to 80% of agriculture lands in Bekaa and 20% in south Lebanon. Many agricultural projects were implemented on the basin as Joun project and Al-Qasmieh project. Farmers are using the fertilizers and pesticides that are polluting the river with chemicals. On the other hand, farmers are impacted by the water they are using to irrigate their crops since it is polluted with chemicals and full of soil, gravel and sand.

Serious and concerted efforts are urgently required to restore Litani River to its lost glory

Serious and concerted efforts are urgently required to restore Litani River to its lost glory

Two years ago, the Lebanese government announced $730 million project to clean up the pollution of Qaraoun Lake and Litani river. The seven years ambitious plan is divided into four components: $14 million will go to solid waste treatment, $2.6 million for agricultural pollution, $2.6 million for industrial pollution and $712 million for sewage treatment.

The Way Forward

In order to save the Litani River, here are few steps that must be taken urgently:

  • Establish a sewage system especially for the new refugee camps near the river basin.
  • Promote measures to tackle the industrial pollution.
  • Stop industrial effluents from polluting the River.
  • Establish waste treatment plants in the area.
  • Hire staff to operate existing wastewater treatment plants. For example Zahle plant that lacks staff to operate.
  • Build water treatment facilities for the local communities.

Small steps can effectively reduce the pollution and restore the lost glory of the Litani River.  Thousands of people volunteered to clean up the Litani River on the national day of the Litani River. This took place after there was a huge online campaign titled “together to save the Litani River” initiated by activists. Thousands of people engaged online and then onsite to fish out rubbish; bulldozers removed accumulated sands and mud in the river from nearby sand quarries.

Green Resolutions for New Year

green-resolutionsThis year, in addition to our personal goals, let us make another New Year resolution: to make this year the year we really ‘go green’. Supporting environmental initiatives should be one of our main priorities and needs to be reflected through our resolutions and commitment to safeguard it against all forms of pollution and to protect our fragile and finite resources. Depending on our age, work, location etc., our priorities may be different but our actions should be in unison towards environmental protection.

We need to understand that we have very recklessly plundered the global resources in a short span of time that is causing many adversities and catastrophes, but we are the only species that have to take preventive measures to avoid any such occurrences in future. Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment.

Let us, at the least, try to support the following activities and tasks starting from this year and onward, if we have not practiced earlier:

  • Protect and enhance the green spaces, parks and playgrounds.
  • Utilizing our roof for gardening and creating green areas.
  • Enviauditing of our household and office related activities. Improving tasks that require electricity and water usage.
  • Use minimum water for our daily activities.
  • Wash clothes in normal water and washing only when full loads are in the dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Turn off the faucet while we brush our teeth or shave.
  • Watering our lawn in the morning/ evening to reduce evaporation losses.
  • Changing incandescent bulbs for C.F.L.s.
  • Conserve energy in all forms. Switch lights when not in use.
  • Unplug mobile charger and computer after use as it wastes a lot of energy.
  • Avoid fast fashion. Reduce our insatiable appetite for design apparel and related clothing that we wear for only one season and throw it in next. Only buy what you need.
  • Do green shopping and donate items/ clothes we do not use.
  • Detox your home. Only use safe chemicals and detergents as household cleaning products for furniture, bathrooms and clothes including air fresheners.
  • Reuse and recycle material
  • Plan vehicle trips to avoid peak hours and traffic congestion.
  • Avoiding wasting any food items.
  • Avoid plastic bags and taking our own bag for shopping.
  • Avoid using Styrofoam cups, disposable cutlery and other related items.
  • Avoid un-necessary print outs and photocopy.
  • Minimize using bottled drinking water. This is expensive and generates plastic bottles waste. Instead use filtering equipment at home or use large refillable and reusable bottles.
  • Avoid using paper towels and napkins. Instead use cotton clothes and old used fabrics.
  • Enhancing our awareness by reading and knowing more on environment.

Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment (Image Courtesy: www.inhabitat.com)

Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment (Image Courtesy: www.inhabitat.com)

Enjoy the festivities of the season and be a more responsible citizen of the world. Happy New Year!

Egypt’s Water Crisis and Degeneration of Nile

pollution-nileEgypt is struggling to cope with water shortages and food production. It is expected that Egypt’s per capita annual water supply will drop from 600 cubic meters today to 500 cubic meters by 2025, which is the UN threshold for absolute water scarcity. Egypt has only 20 cubic meters per person of internal renewable freshwater resources, and as a result the country relies heavily on the Nile for its main source of water. Water scarcity has become so severe that it has been recorded that certain areas in the country could go days without water, with pressure sometimes returning only for a few hours a week. The country can no longer delay action and must act now.

Agriculture

Agriculture contributes roughly 15% of Egypt’s GDP, and employs 32% of Egypt’s workforce with rice being the biggest produce in the country. Rice is an important part of an Egyptian family’s diet. However, the cultivation of rice is very water intensive. On average about 3000 liters of water is used to produce 1 kilo of rice. This number can vary depending on climate, soil type and water management practices.

The government has restricted cultivation of rice to an area of 1 million acres (farmers were previously able to use most of the Nile Delta for cultivation) in specified areas of the Nile Delta. The government has even resorted to taking drastic measures as spreading incendiary compounds on rice fields cultivated outside the area allocated by the government. This has caused outrage and demonstrations by farmers who insist that the area allocated is not enough for them to be able to make ends meet. This type of tension caused by the lack of water was one of the catalysts of the Arab Spring in 2011/2012.

To alleviate population tension and unrest the government has been trying to increase water supply by exploring with reusing treated agricultural and municipal wastewater for agriculture. However implementation of such initiatives is not being applied fast enough to cope with the rising demand. Government must enforce new irrigation methods in the country (Egyptian farmers still rely heavily on flood and canal irrigation in the Nile Delta) as well as smart agricultural practices such as using less water intensive crops. Resorting less water intensive water crops could drastically cut water used in agriculture and help increase water supply.

Pollution of the Nile

The Nile has been a lifeline for Egypt at least since the time of the pharaohs. Yet, despite the world’s largest river’s importance to the country, its water is being polluted by various sources, and pollution levels increasing exponentially in recent years.

The degeneration of the Nile is an issue that is regularly underestimated in Egypt. With so many people relying on the Nile for drinking, agricultural, and municipal use, the quality of that water should be of most importance. The waters are mainly being polluted by municipal and industrial waste, with many recorded incidents of leakage of wastewater, the dumping of dead animal carcasses, and the release of chemical and hazardous industrial waste into the Nile River.

Industrial waste has led to the presence of metals (especially heavy metals) in the water which pose a significant risk not only on human health, but also on animal health and agricultural production. Fish die in large numbers from poisoning because of the high levels of ammonia and lead. Agricultural production quality and quantity has been affected by using untreated water for irrigation as the bacteria and the metals in the water affect the growth of the plant produce, especially in the Nile Delta where pollution is highest.

Industrial pollution is wrecking havoc in Nile

Industrial pollution is wrecking havoc in Nile

Of course the pollution of Nile is a complex problem that has been continuing for more than 30 years and the government is trying to implement stricter rules on the quality and type of waste/wastewater dumped into the river to reduce the pollution of the Nile. However, swift and decisive action must be taken towards cleaning the Nile, such as treating the wastewater prior to disposal, and placing stricter restrictions on industries to dispose of their waste safely and responsibly. This issue cannot be ignored any further as the continual increase in population will cause an increase in demand on Egypt’s dwindling water resources. Every drop of water counts.

The Blue Nile Dam

Another challenge at hand is tackling the issue of Ethiopia building a dam and hydroelectric plant upstream that may cut into Egypt’s share of the Nile. For some time a major concern for Egypt was Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in the Blue Nile watershed, which is a main source of water for the Nile River. Construction of the Renaissance Dam started in December 2010, and has the capacity to store 74 to 79 billion cubic meters of water and generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity for Ethiopia a year. This creates major concern for Egypt, who is worried that this damn would decrease the amount of water it receives (55.5 billion cubic meters) from the Nile River. Egypt is concerned that during dry months, not enough water will be released from the GERD thus decreasing the water received downstream. This will greatly hinder Egypt’s attempts to alleviate the water shortages during those months.

Earlier this year, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan assigned two French companies to prepare a report on the impact of the dam on the three countries. This report will clarify the affects the Dam will have on downstream countries. The results of this report are yet to be released. 

Conclusion

In case of business-as-usual scenario, Egypt runs the risk of becoming an absolute water scarce country in less than a decade. Therefore Egypt has a battle on its hands to ensure adequate conditions for its population. Like many other water scarce countries around the world, it needs to mitigate water scarcity by implementing smart conservation techniques, adopting water saving technologies, and control water pollution. With climate conditions expected to get drier and heat waves expected to become more frequent in the MENA region, Egypt cannot afford to neglect its water conservation policies and must act immediately to meet the population’s water demand.

 

Sources of Information

http://www.ecomena.org/egypt-water/

http://www.mfa.gov.eg/SiteCollectionDocuments/Egypt%20Water%20Resources%20Paper_2014.pdf

http://www.waterhistory.org/histories/nile/nile.pdf

http://planetearthherald.com/egypt-faces-water-crisis-the-end-of-the-nile-as-we-knew-it/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/04/egypt-water-crisis-intensifies-scarcity

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2016/04/30/Egypt-must-preserve-its-lifeline-by-tackling-the-water-crisis-now.html

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/476db2e5769344c48997d41eb319bf64/egypt-looks-avert-water-crisis-driven-demand-waste

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2016/06/14/470358/Egypt-water-crisis-street-protests-Dakahlia-North-Sinai

http://phys.org/news/2016-04-egypt-avert-crisis-driven-demand.html

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/06/egypt-crops-water-crisis-state-emergency.html

https://tcf.org/content/report/egyptian-national-security-told-nile/

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/04/egypt-water-minister-interview-nile-drought-ethiopia-sudan.html

http://ecesr.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/ECESR-Water-Polllution-En.pdf

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/05/egypt-nile-water-pollution-phosphate-ammonia-fish-drinking.html

http://www.aqua-waterfilter.com/index.php/en/articles/water-pollution/61-water-pollution-in-egypt.html

https://www.ukessays.com/essays/environmental-studies/water-pollution-in-egypt.php

https://usarice.com/blogs/usa-rice-daily/2015/08/28/egypt-bans-rice-exports-as-of-september-1

http://www.knowledgebank.irri.org/ericeproduction/III.1_Water_usage_in_rice.htm

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/en/originals/2016/04/egypt-ethiopia-drought-renaissance-dam-conflict.html

http://phys.org/news/2010-11-rice-production-withers-egypt.html

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/06/egypt-crops-water-crisis-state-emergency.html

http://www.salini-impregilo.com/en/projects/in-progress/dams-hydroelectric-plants-hydraulic-works/grand-ethiopian-renaissance-dam-project.html

http://www.juancole.com/2016/06/conflict-ethiopias-renaissance.html

Earth Day 2014 – Focus on Green Cities

Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22, marks the birth of modern environmental movement. Earth Day has now grown into a global tradition making it the largest civic observance in the world and is one of the widely celebrated events in which over one billion people from over 190 countries participate by taking suitable actions for saving our mother Earth. The Earth Day was first organised in 1970 to promote respect for life on the planet and to encourage awareness on air, water and soil pollution. Each year a different theme or topic is selected.

Earth Day 2014

Earth Day 2014 will focus on ‘Green Cities’ as a unique environmental challenge to make our livelihood environmental friendly. Due to rising population, more migration is taking place from rural to urban areas. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities with urbanisation rates rising and impacts of climate change have prompted the need to create sustainable communities. The Earth day is observed believing that nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.

It is a fact that people are crowding cities and with the increase in population density, pollution of all sorts is increasing as well. Many cities are finding it difficult to cope with this fast urbanisation and to provide basic facilities like shelter, infrastructures, water, sanitation, sewerage, garbage, electricity, transportation etc. to its inhabitants.

People who live in high-density air pollution area, have 20 per cent higher risk of dying from lung cancer, than people living in less polluted areas. Children contribute to only 10 per cent of the world’s population but are prone to 40 per cent of global diseases. More than 3 million children under the age of 5 years die every year due to environmental factors like pollution.

Earth Day 2014 will seek to create awareness amongst people to act in an environmental friendly manner, promote and do smart investments in sustainable urban system transforming our polluted cities into a healthier place and forge a sustainable future. It’s exceptionally challenging for our communities and cities to be green.

Action Plan

It’s time for us to invest in efficiency and renewable energy, rebuild our cities and towns, and begin to solve the climate crisis. Over the next two years, with a focus on Earth Day 2014, the Green Cities campaign will mobilise a global movement to accelerate this transition. Most of the Middle East nations have limited land area and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change which is affecting the social and environmental determinants of health, clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.

We need to audit our actions and see what are we contributing towards your environment and community? Earth Day is a day for action; a chance to show how important the environment is to us. Earth Day is about uniting voices around the globe in support of a healthy planet. The earth is what we all have in common.

Let us be a part of this green revolution, plan and participate in Earth Day activities moving from single-day actions, such as park cleanups and tree-planting parties to long-term actions and commitments and make our city a healthier place to live as the message of the Earth Day is to “Actively participate and adopt environmental friendly habits”.

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Destruction of the Dead Sea

Dead Sea is the lowest point on the planet and one of the most unique environments around the world. It lies on the borders of Jordan, the West Bank and Israel. Known for its high-density waters and mineral rich soils, the Dead Sea is visited by a large number of tourists from all over the world. Its soils contain minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and salt.These minerals are used in cosmetics, chemical products such as industrial salts and are even used in table salts for home use.

State of the Affairs

The once mineral-rich Dead Sea has shrunk to the size of a small and pitiful pond. Water levels have been dropping at a rate of 1 meter per annum. Currently it lies 1,300 feet below sea level and if the rate of decline continues it will reach 1,800 feet below sea level before the end of the century. This sharp decline is due to the over-exploitation of its minerals, the use of its water for desalination, and the large increase in agriculture in both Jordan and Israel.

Many environmental casualties have been associated with the rapid retreat in the shoreline of the Dead Sea. An example is the emergence of sinkholes. Many residential areas and roads around the Dead Sea have been destroyed because of sinkholes. Sinkholes are natural depressions in the Earth’s surface caused by the chemical dissolution of nutrients in the soil.These sinkholes endanger the livesof locals and tourists alike.

In an attempt to save the Dead Sea, the governments of Jordan and Israel plan to implement a project called the “Red to Dead Water Conveyance Plan” which involves building of a pipeline that connects both the Red and the Dead Sea and pumping around two thousand million cubic meters (mcm) of water per year into the latter which is equivalent to the water produced by 60 desalination plants in a day. However, many scientists are skeptical of this project due to the many problems that would arise including:

  1. The different densities and minerals in the waters would cause algal blooms that would be detrimental to the environment while also causing the water to turn red/green.
  2. Large water withdrawal from the Red Sea would have a detrimental effect on the coral reefs, sea level, and nutrient levels.
  3. The pipeline carrying the water from the Red to the Dead Sea might leak salt water into groundwater reserves along its route thereby increasing salinity in both the groundwater and the surrounding soil.

On the basis of these apprehensions it seems that this project would do little to help rectify the problem and might even add to it. An alternative way to save the Dead Sea would be to rehabilitate the Jordan River. As it stands today, only 50 mcm of water from the Jordan River reaches the Dead Sea as opposed to 1.3 billion cubic meters in 1950.

The Jordan River is a shadow of what it once was. The river acts as the main water source for Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank. As a result, 90% of the fresh water that replenishes it is diverted to agriculture.  Another problem facing it is pollution from agricultural and wastewater run-offs. About 50% of the agricultural run-offs from the surrounding areas are dumped into the river which has caused its water levels to drop dramatically.

Action Plan

Unfortunately, with limited sources of water, it will be difficult to ask concerned governments to stop relying heavily on the Jordan River. Some of the actions that governments may initative include:

  1. Improve irrigation systems and abandon the traditional systems that waste more than 25% of the water that is used.
  2. Renovate pipe systems in cities to reduce the number of leaks from the pipelines and to supply clean drinking tap water for the public.
  3. Plant local plants, which do not require much water and refrain from planting water intensive plants (e.g. rice).
  4. Harvest rainwater by manufacturing storage Pillars or tanks.

The Dead Sea has a geological importance in the region, and has many important aspects that make it significant. It is the saltiest and most mineral rich water body in the world. It also has a biological importance as it is home to many unique biological bacteria that are not present anywhere else on Earth. Regenerating the Jordan River, less water desalination, and improving water management practices will help regenerate the Dead Sea and help maintain this unique and important environment.

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Sustainable Water Management and River Rehabilitation in Jordan Valley

jordan-riverIn the context of EcoPeace Middle East's recently released Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan, the key challenge in sustainable water management is to overcome the water scarcity related problems  in the Jordan Valley. This means creating a sustainable water supply system that meets the current and future domestic and agricultural water demands; and at the same time preserves the water resources for future generations and for the environment. This requires an Integrated Water Resources Management regime for the whole (Lower) Jordan River, based on international co-operation among Israel, Jordan and Palestine, supported with adequate water management tools (like WEAP) to ensure sustainable water supply and an increase of the baseflow and rehabilitation of the ecological values of the Jordan River.

One of the related key challenges is to achieve full treatment of wastewater generated in the study area and full reuse for agricultural purposes. This will both reduce public health related risks and strengthen the agricultural sector. This requires development of a detailed technical and financial plan, including designs and tender documents, for full scale collection, treatment and reuse of the locally generated wastewater flows, including domestic, industrial (mainly oliveoil wastewater in Jordan) and manure management.

Another key challenge is to restore the function of the lower part of the Jordan River as a natural river and water conveyor in the valley for supply purposes, by keeping its flow as long as possible in the river. Rehabilitating the river will include actions in terms of realizing at least one minor flood (c.a. 20-50 m3/sec) per year. In order to bring back the original habitats of the river, also the flow bed of the river are to be widened to about 50-70 m in the north and at least 30 m in the south, with flood plains on both sides.

The salinity of the Jordan River has a natural tendency to increase downstream. This is caused by natural drainage of brackish groundwater into the river, particularly in the southern part of the valley near the Dead Sea. The key challenge is to prevent any inflow of salt or brackish surface water into the river above the point where the river would still be fresh, i.e. above the confluent with Wadi Qelt. This implies bypassing the salt water from the Israeli Saline Water Carrier (SWC), the brackish water from the Israeli Fish Ponds, and the brine from the Abu Zeighan desalination plant to a new outflow located south of the river’s confluent with Wadi Qelt, close to the Dead Sea. If this will be done, the river will be able to provide water of good quality for different user functions. In terms of chloride concentrations this means a maximum of 400 mg/l for drinking water purposes; 600 mg/l for fresh water irrigation; and 1500 mg/l for irrigation of date palms.

An olive oil mill in Jordan

An olive oil mill in Jordan

Another key challenge is to maintain total agricultural water demands at the same level as today, with the exception of Palestine which is currently heavily underdeveloped in terms of agriculture. To achieve a sustainable water balance within the valley and sufficient flows in the river it will furthermore be required that around 2020 Israel will largely cease pumping water to the extent possible out of the valley from the Sea of Galilee through the National Water Carrier (NWC), meanwhile maintaining its present agricultural water consumption within the valley; that the Sea of Galilee will be kept on a medium water level between the top and bottom red lines ("green line" as defined by the Israeli Water Authority); and that by 2050 Jordan will stop diverting water from the Yarmouk and other tributaries to the Kind Abdullah Canal (KAC) to the extent possible, and instead will use the Jordan River as main conveyor for its irrigation supply purposes. In addition, by 2050 Palestine would also use the Jordan River as its main water conveyor, meaning that the planned development of the West Ghor Canal will not be built.

These challenges require a series of related interventions, including adequate water data monitoring and modeling; promotion of water saving and water demand management measures in all sectors; provision of related training and institutional strengthening support services; improved regulations and enforcement on groundwater abstractions to stop groundwater depletion and salination; and implementation of efficient water pricing policies and related enforcement.

In terms of water governance, the challenge will be to strengthen the authorities, including JVA, PWA, in their role as regulator of the water sector in the Jordan Valley. This includes skills with regard to water data collection and management; water resources planning; efficient operations of the water storage and supply system; and strengthening the co-operation with the local water user associations. It also includes monitoring, regulations and enforcement of surface water and groundwater abstractions; protection of sensitive shallow aquifers, efficient tariff policies, and monitoring reduction of agricultural pollution loads.

Note: This is the second article in our special series on 'Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley'. 

Islamic Principles on Sustainable Development

A huge number of verses in Qura’n and several sayings of the Prophet Muhammad indicate the great importance that has been given to environmental concerns and the responsibility of man to the environment. The concept of sustainable development in Islam can be defined as “The balanced and simultaneous realization of consumer welfare, economic efficiency, attainment of social justice, and ecological balance in the framework of a evolutionary knowledge-based, socially interactive model defining the Shuratic process”The Shuratic process is the consultation or participatory ruling principle of Islam.

The over arching principle in the use of nature is derived from the prophetic declaration that states: "There shall be no damage and no infliction of damage". The right to benefit from the essential environmental elements and resources such as water, minerals, land, forests, fish and wildlife, arable soil, air and sunlight is in Islam, a right held in common by all members of society.  Each individual is entitled to benefit from a common resource subject to establishing the degree of need, (needs have to be distinguished from wants) and the impact on the environment.

Earth is mentioned 61 times in the Qura’n. According to Islam, the universe has been created by Allah (God) with a specific purpose and for a limited time. The utilization of natural resources (ni‘matullah – the gifts of Allah) is a sacred trust invested in mankind; he is a mere manager and not an owner, a beneficiary and not a disposer. Side by side, the Islamic nation has been termed as) ummatan wasatan) the moderate nation in the Qur’an, a nation that avoids excesses in all things. Thus, Muslims in particular have to utilize the earth responsibly for their benefit, honestly maintain and preserve it, use it considerately and moderately, and pass it on to future generations in an excellent condition. This includes the appreciation of its beauty and handing it over in a way that realizes the worship of Allah.

The utilization of all natural resources – land, water, air, fire (energy), forests, oceans – are considered the right and the joint property of the entire humankind. Since Man is Khalifatullah (the vicegerent of Allah) on earth, he should take every precaution to ensure the interests and rights of others, and regard his mastery over his allotted piece of land as a joint ownership with the next generation. 

Land Reclamation

Prophet Muhammad said, "Whosoever brings dead land to life, for him is a reward in it, and whatever any creature seeking food eats of it shall be reckoned as charity from him". The Prophet in another occasion said, "There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field for a human, bird, or animal eats from it, but it shall be reckoned as charity from him"; and, "If anyone plants a tree, no human nor any of the creatures of Allah will eat from it without it being reckoned as charity from him". This testifies the importance the Prophet in the early days of Islam has given to reclamation of land and the equal rights of all God’s creatures to benefit from the resources of earth. 

Wildlife Protection

Wildlife and natural resources are protected under Shariah (Rules of Islam) by zoning around areas called “hima”. In such places, industrial development, habitation, extensive grazing, are not allowed. The Prophet himself, followed by the Caliphs of Islam, established such “hima” zones as public property or common lands managed and protected by public authority for conservation of natural resources.

Water Rights

In the Shariah, there is a responsibility placed on upstream farms to be considerate of downstream users. A farm beside a stream is forbidden to monopolize its water. After withholding a reasonable amount of water for his crops, the farmer must release the rest to those downstream. Furthermore, if the water is insufficient for all of the farms along the stream, the needs of the older farms are to be satisfied before the newer farm is permitted to irrigate. This reflects the sustainable utilization of water based on its safe yield.

Environment Protection

The rights to benefit from nature are linked to accountability and maintenance or conservation of the resource. The fundamental legal principle established by the Prophet Muhammad is that "The benefit of a thing is in return for the liability attached to it.” Much environmental degradation is due to people's ignorance of what their Creator requires of them. People should be made to realize that the conservation of the environment is a religious duty demanded by God. God has said.  “And do good as Allâh has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. Allâh does not love the corrupters”, (Al Qasas 28:77.(

Waste Generation

Islam calls for the efficient use of natural resources and waste minimization. God says in Qura’n: “Eat and drink, but waste not by excess; “He” loves not the excessive”, (Al-A'raf 7:31). "And do not follow the bidding of the excessive, who cause corruption in the earth and do not work good”, (Ash-Shu'ara 26: 151-152). “And do not cause corruption in the earth, when it has been set in order”, (Al-A'râf 7:56).

Water Pollution

Water also plays another socio-religious function: cleaning of the body and clothes from all dirt, impurities, and purification so that mankind can be presentable at all times. Only after cleaning with pure (colorless, odorless and tasteless) water, Muslims are allowed to pray. One can only pray at a place that has been cleaned. In light of these facts, Islam stresses on preventing pollution of water resources. Urinating in water (discharging wastewater into water stream) and washing or having a bath in stagnant water are forbidden acts in Islam. The Prophet said: "No one should bathe in still water, when he is unclean”. 

Water Conservation

The teachings of Prophet Muhammad emphasize the proper use of water without wasting it. The Prophet said: “Don’t waste water even if you are on a running river”. He also said: “Whoever increases (more than three), he does injustice and wrong”.  

Sustainable Forestry

Islamic legislation on the preservation of trees and plants finds its roots in Qura’nic teachings of Prophet. They include the following:Whoever plants a tree and looks after it with care, until it matures and becomes productive, will be rewarded in the Hereafter” and “If anyone plants a tree or sows a field and men, beasts or birds eat from it, he should consider it as a charity on his part". He is also reported to have encouraged tree planting as a constructive practice, saying that even if one hour remained before the final hour and one has a palm-shoot in his hand, he should plant it. Even at times of war, Muslim leaders, such as Abu Baker, advised their troops not to chop down trees and destroy agriculture or kill an animal.

Public Participation

The protection, conservation, and development of the environment and natural resources is a mandatory religious duty to which every Muslim should be committed. This commitment emanates from the individual's responsibility before God to protect himself and his community.  God has said, "Do good, even as God has done you good, and do not pursue corruption in the earth. God does not love corrupters”.

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