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Sea-Level Rise in the Nile Delta
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The Nile Delta is one of the oldest intensively cultivated areas on Earth. It is very heavily populated, with population densities up to 1,600 inhabitants per km2. The most important cash crop grown in the delta is cotton, which has been in constant cultivation since 2000 BC. The case-study covered the most heavily populated part of Egypt’s Mediterranean coast with a land area of 25,000 km2, which includes all of Egypt’s coastal cropland and major cities threatened by the predicted see-level rise. Most of a 50 km wide land strip along the coast is less than 2 m above sea-level, and is protected from flooding by a 1 to 10 km wide coastal sand belt only.

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For parts of the Nile Delta contour maps at a scale of 1:100,000 with 1 meter contour intervals were obtained as a redraw from the original maps, which allowed to evaluate the consequences of the sea-level rise with 50 cm increments. Population density was derived from extrapolated 1971 figures. The cropland/non-cropland map was derived from a 1988 Landsat image through visual interpretation of a black-and-white paper print. The work was conducted using ARC/INFO on a VAX 3600 platform.
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Maps of areas affected by the rising sea-level if it destroyed the weak parts of the coastal protection sand belt. The consequences would be very serious:
  • valuable reclaimed agricultural lands would be inundated;
  • vital, low lying installations in Alexandria and Port Said would be threatened;
  • fish communities of the lagoons, providing one third of Egypt’s fish catches, would change;
  • beach facilities supporting recreational tourism would be endangered;
  • essential groundwater would be salinated.


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Contact : Otto Simonett, UNEP/GRID-Arendal
P.O. Box 1602, Myrene, N-4801, Arendal, Norway
Phone: +47 370 35650 Fax: +370 35050
E-mail: simonett@grida.no | http://www.grida.no/