Study: Egypt To Face Critical Countrywide Freshwater & Food Shortages By 2025

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While Egypt has been in something of a state of turmoil for, at the very least, the last few years, things are only slated to get worse and worse there, going by recent research.

Egypt will be facing critical countrywide shortages of freshwater and food by the year 2025 — due to falling elevation levels on the Nile Delta (the result of the river being so constrained and overdeveloped now that most of the nutrient-rich sediment can’t make it to the delta margins, and also due to strata compaction), rising sea levels (saltwater intrusion), and the looming completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. That’s all according to a new multi-year study from researchers at the Smithsonian Institution.

Rising population numbers may possibly play a part as well. Though, it’s hard to tell at this point if Egypt’s growing social and geopolitical problems will limit this to a notable degree or not. (The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam reservoir is expected to be filled over just a 3 to 5 year period, during which river flows to Egypt and Sudan are expected to be seriously curtailed. Considering that all 3 of the countries are already barely meeting freshwater “needs,” this situation may well lead to substantial conflict. Egypt already has one of the world’s lowest annual per capita water shares — 660 cubic meters per person.)

The press release on the matter provides some background: “The soil-rich delta evolved as the result of natural conditions involving the Nile’s fresh water flow and transport of sediment northward from Ethiopia, across the Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean. About 70% of water flow reaching Egypt is derived from the Blue Nile and Atbara River, both sourced in Ethiopia. Over the past 200 years, rapidly increasing human activity has seriously altered flow conditions of the Nile. Emplacement in Egypt of barrages in the 1800s, construction the Aswan Low Dam in 1902, and the Aswan High Dam in 1965 has since altered water flow and distribution of nourishing organic-rich soil in the delta.

“Egypt’s population has recently swelled rapidly to about 90 million, with most living in the soil-rich Lower Nile Valley and Delta. These two areas comprise only about 3.5% of Egypt’s total area, the remainder being mostly sandy desert. Due to much-intensified human impact, the delta no longer functions as a naturally expanding fluvial-coastal center. Less than 10% of Nile water now reaches the sea, and most of the nutrient-rich sediment is trapped in the delta by a dense canal and irrigation system.”

As it stands, the delta plain is only around 1 meter above sea level — and the full northern third of it is falling by between 4–8 mm a year due to the lack of new sediment, and due to strata compaction. Accompanying the falling of the delta’s elevation, of course, is the rising of sea levels (around 3 mm a year in the region). Saline intrusion is already affecting agricultural regions in central delay sectors — as time goes by, the effects of falling delta elevation and rising seas will worsen substantially with regard to salinization.

So, the takeaway of all of this is: Where do Egypt’s ~90 million people go? And what do they do when freshwater and food shortages begin hitting even worse than they are now? We’ve discussed these subjects before, and historical study has much to say as well. (I’m going to go ahead and offend practically everyone reading this by noting that Germanics, Celts, Italics, Iberians, etc., are all immigrants that only arrived in Europe over just the last few thousand years, or slightly longer in the case of the Iberians and Italics. None of these groups are “indigenous” to the region, as I have heard some claim.)

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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