From: Reuters
Published March 10, 2008 01:34 PM

Nile Delta under threat starting 2020: minister

CAIRO (Reuters) - Rising sea levels will threaten 15 percent of the Nile Delta by 2020, the rich agricultural area which is home to about half of the 75 million Egyptians, Environment Minister George Maged said on Monday.

"Many of the towns and urban areas in the north of the Delta will suffer from the rise in the level of the Mediterranean with effect from 2020 and about 15 percent of Delta land is under threat from the rising sea level and the seepage into the ground water," he told a parliamentary committee.

The minister quoted technical studies by his ministry, in conjunction with the United Nations, for his assessment of the danger and said he was asking the foreign ministry to start an international campaign to seek urgent solutions.

Egyptian newspapers have quoted foreign reports on the potential threat to the Nile Delta, an alluvial plain much of which lies only a few meters (feet) above sea level, but the government has said little to alert people to the problem.

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A study by the U.N. Environment Programme says that a rise of 0.5 meters (20 inches) would displace 3.8 million people and damage 1,800 square km (700 square miles) in the Delta.

A rise of one meter (39 inches) would displace 6.1 million people and damage 4,500 square km (1,700 square miles) of farmland, the study added.

(Writing by Jonathan Wright; Editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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