Interdisciplinary Asessment of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change Impacts on the lower Nile Delta, Egypt

by Rebecca Herrera

The Mediterranean region will continue to experience climate change in much of the same way as other arid regions around the world. Susnik et al. (2014) set our to find our how the Nile River delta in Egypt experiences more intense droughts and water shortages, rising regional temperatures, an increased frequency of flash flood events, and sea level rise. It is critical to understand of how these climactic changes will impact the people residing in the delta. Susnik et al. take an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to studying the effects of sea level rise (SLR) on the lower Nile delta and the greater Alexandria areas by analyzing the results of three complementary projects; which reveal that water overexploitation exacerbates land subsidence and accelerates saline intrusion of soils and groundwater which has radiating effects on employment as well as placing additional pressure on agricultural lands and regional development.

The projects are CLIMB (Climate Induced changes on the hydrology of Mediterranean Basins), WASSERMed (Water Availability and Security in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean), and CLICO (CLImate change hydro-COnflicts and human security). These projects focus on the various socio-physical water-related security issues throughout the Mediterranean and comprise the CLImate-induced changes on WAter and SECurity (CLIWASEC) study.

The CLIMB research was based on the implementation of multi-model hydro-meteorological ensembles and the comparison of changing hydrological quantities from the reference period of 1971-2000 to the projection period of 2041-2070. For the Nile Delta, CLIMB found that annual precipitation will fall, there will be moderate shifts in seasonal rainfall patterns, and the area will have an increased susceptibility to drought. The Greater Alexandria region according to the results is highly vulnerable to urbanization, ground water and soil salinization, pollution, land degradation, and poor management practices. Local stakeholders see population growth and urbanization as the main pressures on water resources over the next 20 years.

WASSERMed used “System Dynamics Modeling” to examine water security concerns in the water, food, and economic sectors in the Rosetta region of the Nile Delta. WASSERMed determined that water in the Nile delta is an overexploited resource. As total SLR increases, the amount of agricultural land loss increases to a maximum of 13% at 0.5 m SLR. The outcomes are not all grim however, as in cropping pattern simulations, it was shown that the overall water balance improves and water use drops as farmers replace water intensive rice crops are replaced with cotton, vegetables, and wheat; crops already planted in the area. By doing this, farmers have the potential to increase their crop yield and improve their livelihoods as well as mitigate SLR and climate change impacts on their crops by reducing their water demand.

CLICO studies and predicts new susceptibilities and security concerns evolving from an adaptation scenario to SLR of large-scale resettlement. Because 35% of the densely populated areas of the Greater Alexandria region reside below sea level, some see preventative resettlement as potentially the only viable response to SLR. Through 500 household surveys, the CLICO team found that households have a limited capacity to migrate, especially farmers and fishers whose livelihoods are tied to their surroundings. Up to 20% of respondents reported that they would refuse to voluntarily participate in a government resettlement program. If resettlement fails and SLR continues to climb, people may be forced into informal housing, compromising their livelihoods and increasing the likelihood of conflict.

A more complete understanding of the pressures of climate change and sea level rise in the Nile delta and Greater Alexandria region of Egypt can help policy makers better manage regional development in regards to climate and social change.

Susnik, J., Vamvakeridou-Lyroudia, L., Baumert, N., Kloos, J., et al. 2014. Interdisciplinary assessment of sea-level rise and climate change impacts on the lower Nile delta, Egypt. Science of the Total Environment, 503-504, 279-288.

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