by Fatma Ahmed Fatma Ahmed – Thu Jan 28, 1:02 pm ET
ROSETTA, Egypt (AFP) – The Nile Delta, Egypt's bread basket since antiquity, is being turned into a salty wasteland by rising seawaters, forcing some farmers off their lands and others to import sand in a desperate bid to turn back the tide.
Experts warn that global warming will have a major impact in the delta on agriculture resources, tourism and human migration besides shaking the region's fragile ecosystems.
Over the last century, the Mediterranean Sea, which fronts the coast of the Nile Delta, has risen by 20 centimetres (six inches) and saltwater intrusion has created a major challenge, experts say.
A recent government study on the coast of Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city, expects the sea to continue to rise and flood large swathes of land. "A 30 centimetre rise in sea level is expected to occur by 2025, flooding approximately 200 square kilometres (77 square miles).
"As a result, over half a million inhabitants may be displaced and approximately 70,000 jobs could be lost," the study said.
Environmental damage to the Nile Delta is not yet one of Egypt's priorities, but experts say if the situation continues to deteriorate, it will trigger massive food shortages which could turn seven million people into "climate refugees" by the end of the century. The fertile Nile Delta provides around a third of the crops for Egypt's population of 80 million and a large part of these crops are exported providing the country with an important source of revenue.
Climatic changes have forced some Delta farmers to abandon their land, while others are trying to adapt by covering their land with beds of sand to isolate it against seawater infiltrations, and grow crops. "We buy these sacks of sand which cost a lot of money and use them to make a bed on which to grow crops so we can get by," said farmer ElSayed Saad.
"Life is difficult," said Saad, who like other farmers must repeat the procedure every 10 years in order to stay productive -- even if that in itself is not a guarantee.
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