On Sunday, 24/10/2021, the activities of the Fourth Cairo Water Week were launched under the slogan “Water, Population and Global Changes: Challenges and Opportunities”. The event is held under the patronage of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Republic and its activities will continue from 24 to 28 October, hosting a large number of ministers, official delegations, senior officials in the water sector, scientists, international organizations and institutes, civil society organizations, women, farmers and legal professionals from different countries of the world. It, also, witnessed the participation of (1000) in-person attendees, as well as the virtual participation of (800) remote attendees; in addition to and the presence of (20) ministerial delegations, and the virtual participation of (44) ministerial delegations.
The opening ceremony was honored with a speech by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, in which he explained that choosing the theme of the fourth Cairo Water Week to be “Water, Population and Global Changes” came at a time when the world is witnessing rapid changes that affect water resources, making their optimal management a complex operation. The President pointed out that Egypt has a firm belief in the inevitability of international cooperation and multilateral action, , with the United Nations system at the core of it, which Egypt contributed to its establishment, as Egypt constructively engaged in the in the process of the UN’s Water Action Decade 2018-2028 in its various stages and took initiative in coordinating with a number of friendly countries to launch a statement on the path of the Water Action Decade, and the upcoming UN conference, to review the comprehensive mid-term of the Water Action Decade, in March 2023.
His Excellency added that Egypt welcomed organizing Cairo Water Week, in its current and upcoming 4th editions in October 2022, in line with the UN Water Action Decade’s path to open a comprehensive and broad discussion between various stakeholders from governments, civil society, experts, academics, women, and youth with the aim of advancing international efforts to confront water-related challenges; specifically, ones related to water scarcity, securing human access to it, and strengthening cross-border cooperation in order to build complementary frameworks that consolidate regional stability on the basis of mutual benefit and common interests.
At the national level, Egypt firmly believes that advancing development efforts is a fundamental condition for enhancing international peace and security and establishing a stable World Order, as Egypt has adopted the comprehensive vision "Egypt 2030" in an ambitious national program that addresses all aspects of life, in which the Egyptian state has given top priority to the sixth goal of the sustainable development goals related to water, and Egypt has also developed a strategic plan for managing water resources until 2037.
The President added that the Egyptian people are closely following the developments in the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam dossier, stressing that Egypt aspires to reach as soon as possible and without further delay a balanced and legally binding agreement in this regard in line with the presidential statement issued by the Security Council in September 2021, which would achieve the goals of Ethiopia's development goals, , which Egypt understands and even supports.
The President asserted the importance of upholding the principles of international cooperation and solidarity, which would enable peoples to face the current global challenges in connection with water issues, highlighting that these challenges are not divisible, “Either we succeed in confronting them by cooperating together, or we fall into the clutches of strife over them. No one will emerge as the winner in a reckless struggle over the source of life that must be provided to every human being without discrimination.”
Meanwhile, the Hungarian President Janusz Adir gave a speech in which he reviewed the history of Hungary in the field of water through the construction of facilities, water channels and irrigation systems since the third and fourth centuries AD, and the issuance of decrees related to water more than 900 years ago, and the start of water engineering training at the end of the 18th century.
Adir added that climate changes, floods and hurricanes cause severe damage to many countries around the world, in addition to the increasing population growth, which increases the pressures on the water system around the world.
Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Aty, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, delivered a speech on behalf of the Prime Minister, Dr. Mostafa Madbouly, in which he welcomed all the attendees in Egypt, which is hosting for the fourth year in a row this important international conference in concern of the issue of water.
Dr. Abdel-Aty indicated that the world has realized that water is life and that it is the mainstay of sustainable development, but at the same time it is one of the most important challenges facing us, as the world is witnessing many changes such as climate changes, rapid urbanization, high rates of population increase, migration and instability in some countries, in addition to the novel Corona Virus pandemic.
He, also, pointed out the importance of concerted efforts of different countries of the world to deal with the challenges related to the most scarce and most important resource ever, which is water. Without this cooperation, no country will be able to face these challenges alone because we live in one world and have a common destiny.
Dr. Abdel-Aty explained that Egypt suffers from a water deficit of 90% of its renewable resources and reuses 35% of those resources to bridge the water gap, and that Egypt is one of the countries that are most vulnerable to the impact of climate changes such as sea level rise, which may expose third of the Delta to drowning or high heat waves or change in the Nile River's flow.
He explained that the Egyptian state, represented by the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation and the ministries concerned with the water sector, has implemented many major national projects and the use of modern technology in water management, within the framework of implementing its national plan for water resources, which is based on four axes: improving water quality, rationalizing water uses and developing Water resources and creating the appropriate environment for the implementation of this plan.
Dr. Abdel-Aty, also, pointed out that Egypt is keen to enhance cooperation with all countries, especially African countries, as Egypt is implementing many development projects in these countries, in addition to offering many training courses in the field of water.
At the end of his speech, Dr. Abdel-Aty stressed that water is the common heritage of humanity and is the most important human right through the ages, which motivates us to work hard to complete the development process and transform challenges into opportunities for cooperation to avoid conflicts, as God gave us the blessing of water to preserve it and to be a reason for the prosperity of nations and to ensure a decent life for future generations.
Then a number of ministers, leaders and senior experts in the field of water delivered their speeches during the opening ceremony.
In this respect, Mr. Cyrine Mbaye Thiam, Minister of Water and Sanitation of the State of Senegal, expressed his happiness to participate in this important conference, noting that the issue of water and population is in line with the priorities of the Ninth World Water Forum Organized by Senegal and the World Water Council in March 2022 in Dakar.
He indicated that the issue of preserving water resources in conjunction with population growth and global changes represents a major challenge for the population living in arid and semi-arid areas, stressing the role of water security in development and peace-building, where ensuring water security is a prerequisite for sustainable development, combating hunger and poverty; in addition to achieving the 2030 Agenda.
He, also, highlighted the intention of Senegal and the World Water Council to organize the Ninth Water Forum, as well as to give a special political dimension to water in order to achieve peace and social and economic development, and to hold summit comprising heads of state, government and major international institutions, with the honor to invite His Excellency President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to participate in this summit.
Ms. Eve Baziba Masudi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of the Democratic Republic of the Congo emphasized that the process of managing water resources must be subject to a specific number of principles in order to meet water challenges, as well as to seize the opportunities available through integrated management of water resources, taking into account the importance of water use at a participatory level in a way that considers current uses, in addition to the importance of evaluating the impact of each water use on other uses.
She noted that that the State of the Congo has set a law that is compatible with the integrated management of water resources, in order to support the conclusion of bilateral and multilateral agreements and other arrangements that define mutual relations between countries with regard to the use, development and protection of water resources and ecosystems in a balanced way.
She, also, added that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is convinced that water should be a tool for peace and not a cause of conflict between the peoples of the world, noting that the natural imbalance in the distribution of fresh water around the world and the exceptional population density in some areas is one of the main causes of conflicts over water, especially with the availability of huge opportunities that can be exploited, taking into account the need to focus on financing the water sector, especially in the field of non-conventional water and rainwater harvesting.
Mr. Abdul Hakim Rajab, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa Region at FAO, stressed the importance of water and its role in achieving sustainable development, pointing to the continued decreasing per capita share of water in the Arab world with the aggravation of the problems of water shortage, groundwater depletion and fluctuations in rain.
He added that the decline in GDP, the increase in population growth and the increase in urbanization put pressure on the water sector to provide the needs of drinking water, agriculture and other uses, which requires development partners to provide the necessary funding for water projects, in addition to exchanging experiences between different countries in the field of water.
He, also, highlighted the importance of achieving rational water management and raising the efficiency of water use, citing the Egyptian experience, which has achieved great success during the past years through the implementation of many major projects in the field of rehabilitation of canals and watering cans, transformation of modern irrigation systems, expansion of water reuse projects and others.
The opening ceremony was preceded by the Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Aty, inaugurating the exhibition, which was held on the sidelines of the week, with the participation of (23) Egyptian and foreign companies and agencies. The exhibition provides a unique and distinct opportunity for all public and private institutions in the water sector to present their activities, programs and products to the attendees, who participate in CWW 2021 from more than 100 countries.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly delivered a recorded speech during the activities of the Fourth Cairo Water Week 2021.
The Prime Minister began his speech by expressing his welcome to Lui Fuchun, President of the World Water Council, Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, and Gilbert Hongbo, President of the United Nations Water Committee and President of the International Fund for Development Agriculture, and Rola Dashti, Executive Director of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (Escwa).
Dr. Mostafa Madbouly also expressed his happiness to participate in this important dialogue on the sidelines of the Cairo Water Week, which has become an international platform for dialogue on water issues; In order to present Egypt's vision to accelerate the implementation of the sustainable development agenda related to water, noting that he is speaking to the participants in the activities of the Water Week on the banks of the immortal Nile River, where civilizations that inspired humanity have been founded, and which gives life to millions of Egyptians as well as the peoples of the Nile Valley, whose lives and destinies are bound to it.
During his speech, the Prime Minister said: The geographical nature of the Egyptian state has made it imperative to place water at the top of its priorities, as it is not only a matter related to the rational and sustainable management of a natural resource, but it also affects the inherent right of every human being to access water. He stressed that water and the Nile River, in particular, for Egypt is an issue that transcends all of these considerations, and rises to the level of the existential issue that is related to the life and survival of this people. Therefore, Egypt has adopted the organization of this dialogue; In order to discuss the sustainable development goals related to water within the framework of the "Water Decade 2018-2028", which comes at a time when the world is witnessing huge challenges in order to secure access to water for humans, and even for entire peoples.
Dr. Mostafa Madbouly pointed out that among the most prominent of these challenges is the escalation of the water scarcity crisis due to natural and human factors, the most important and most dangerous of which is the increase in consumption rates of renewable water resources, the rise in population growth rates, environmental deterioration, the spread of epidemics, and climate change. This is in addition to mega projects, which are established to exploit international rivers without study and without regard to the importance of maintaining the safety and sustainability of international water resources.
The Prime Minister also indicated, during his speech, that the Egyptian state continues to engage seriously and actively in the ongoing preparation of the Mid-term Review Conference, scheduled to be held in 2023, which is embodied in Egypt's keenness to cooperate with a number of international organizations, bodies and countries in organizing this dialogue to reach a common vision and messages that promote the acceleration of the achievement of the sustainable development goals, and to be included in the Mid-term Review report.
Dr. Mostafa Madbouly stressed that our success in achieving the sustainable development goals is now gaining more and more importance, compared to ever, especially in light of the impact of climate changes that have emerged recently on the countries of the world on forcing us to face very difficult challenges; in addition to the spread of Corona pandemic that has affected all of our countries. In light of this, Egypt has long realized the inevitability of sound management of water resources, and therefore it has embarked on implementing an ambitious agenda for the integrated management of water resources to achieve the sixth goal of the sustainable development goals ; besides other goals and targets related to water.
In this respect, the Prime Minister pointed out that this agenda includes the access to clean drinking water and sanitation, improving water quality, as well as addressing water scarcity by enhancing water use efficiency and recycling. Also, Egypt is implementing the principle of integrated management of water resources at all levels, including cooperation In the field of transboundary water resources, noting that with regard to clean drinking water and sanitation, the Egyptian government has been keen since 2014 to make the water and sanitation sector more equitable and sustainable. And in 2020, the coverage of safely managed drinking water reached to about 98% of citizens.
Moreover, safely managed sanitation has also been increased from 50% to 65%. It’s worth mentioning that improving sanitation services for rural areas represents a critical investment in the right to health and well-being for future generations, and a vital component in eradicating poverty. Egypt has, also, invested heavily in the areas of addressing water scarcity and improving water quality by enhancing water use efficiency, recycling and reuse, which contribute to providing decent work in labor-intensive food systems and providing food security.
At the same time, the Prime Minister indicated that the state is working hard to implement the Egyptian rural development project through the presidential initiative “Decent Life” which aims to develop about 4,500 villages, at a cost of more than 40 billion US dollars. This presidential initiative aims to eliminate poverty and to provide basic services, including drinking water and sanitation. The National Strategic Plan for Water Resources in Egypt allocates 50 billion US dollars to improve water quality, conserve water, and develop new water sources.
Dr. Mostafa Madbouly pointed out that these measures also include the modernization and rehabilitation of irrigation systems, in addition to the state's adoption of new systems such as: canal rehabilitation projects, and the transition to the use of modern irrigation systems as well as smart irrigation applications. He added that the government has also pumped large investments in the management and reuse of treated wastewater as well as promoting rainwater harvesting and water desalination, as these efforts contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 2 on eradicating hunger and doubling agricultural productivity as well as the income of small farmers, in addition to the third and fourth goals.
At the same time, the Prime Minister pointed out that all these efforts undertaken by Egypt in these areas are hampered by a great challenge, which is the availability of water, noting that with respect to Egypt's geographical location as a downstream country in the Nile River Basin, ensuring access to safe, clean and sufficient water and protecting Relevant human rights hinges on effective cooperation in the field of transboundary water resources, in accordance with the principles of international law, as Egypt strongly believes that cross-border cooperation is a prerequisite for achieving the sixth sustainable development goal and all human rights related to water.
During his speech, Dr. Mostafa Madbouly stressed that water is the mainstay of achieving a number of sustainable development goals, enhancing resilience in the face of climate change, protecting and fulfilling basic human rights, as well as maintaining regional and international peace and security. Thus the international community needs to do more to address to the radical challenges of cross-border cooperation, which prompts us to call for an open dialogue on the importance of cooperation between riparian countries to achieve the optimal management of international river basins to accomplish the desired development for all peoples, without harming any of them. The Prime Minister also called on the international community to work on ensuring the necessary support for countries which suffer from water scarcity so that they can achieve the goals and hopes of their people.
The Prime Minister also stressed the need for political will to identify, initiate and accelerate cross-border procedures; In support of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 and other water-related goals, taking into account that 60% of the cross-border and shared river basins still lack the existence of mechanisms for cooperative and enforceable management between the riparian countries. He, also, highlighted the importance of strengthening political dialogue and water diplomacy, within the framework of conflict prevention and providing cooperation opportunities as sustainable development concerning water resources contributes to regional stability, which implies giving special support to countries located within crisis areas and facing water scarcity, as well as those hosting large numbers of refugees and displaced persons, in addition to developing and implementing training and capacity development programmes, especially in developing countries, in the field of water negotiation and mediation.
Dr. Mostafa Madbouly concluded his speech by emphasizing that today's dialogue during the activities of the Water Week, in addition to its constructive ideas and proposals will contribute to supporting the efforts of our countries to implement the sustainable development goals and to find innovative solutions to the obstacles facing cooperation between all parties. He also emphasized the work of the Egyptian state on formulating the political messages submitted to the Mid-Term Review of the Water Action Decade, which is based on a number of axes, including water scarcity and accessibility, cooperation in the areas of water and climate, challenges and financing opportunities, as well as technology and tools for modern and sustainable water management.
The Prime Minister expressed the Egyptian state's aspiration to continue the dialogue to complete this important international effort, aiming to reach our common goals towards a better tomorrow for future generations.