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98% of Egypt's total area is desert, says minister

Ninety-eight per cent of Egypt's total area is desert, the country's Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Mohamed Abdel Aty, announced yesterday.

Speaking at a press conference, Abdel Aty warned that water resources in Egypt face "great challenges, including the population growth."

"Water limited resources, the rivalry between the different sectors over the water, steadily increasing population, especially in the delta area, and climate change and its negative impact on the country's share of the Nile River, represent the most significant challenges of water resources in Egypt," he explained.

"97 per cent of Egypt's water comes from outside the country," the minister pointed out.

The ministry, Abdel Aty added, is working proactively to protect the Nile River water, protect the country from floods and harvesting rains, develop the northern Egyptian coasts, discover groundwater wells using clean solar energy, develop irrigation and watering systems, and use modern irrigation and agricultural drainage systems.

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Abdel Aty noted that the ministry was working under the so-called "4T Programme," which comprises raising awareness of water usage rationalisation, developing new water resources as well as the proper legislation that forbid water pollution.

"The project is being implemented in cooperation with nine ministries, with a budget of 900 billion Egyptian pounds ($17.8)," the minister said.

Egypt has been carrying out negotiations with neighbouring Ethiopia and Sudan in an attempt to reach an agreement regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that, ensuring a fair settlement for all the involved parties. On Wednesday, the ministry announced that a meeting by the dam's tripartite committee, which was held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and was attended by the ministers of water resources and irrigation of the three disputing countries, "did not reach an agreement on the difficult points."

The grand dam is one of three barriers that have been built for hydropower generation in Ethiopia. Cairo has nevertheless announced its refusal to start the dam before reaching the final agreement on the rules of filling and operating the dam in a way that does not affect its historical share of the Nile water under the agreement signed in 1959, which amounts to 55 billion cubic meters.

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