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The Nile delta study

What happens when sea level rises?

The Nile Delta is one of the oldest intensely cultivated areas on earth. It is very heavily populated, with population densities up to 1600 inhabitants per square kilometer. Deserts surround the low-lying, fertile floodplains. Only 2,5% of
Egypt's land area, the Nile Delta and the Nile Valley, is suitable for intensive agriculture. 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, shaped by discharge of the Rosetta and Damietta branches of the Nile. Erosion of the protective sand belt is a serious problem and has accelerated since the construction of the Aswan Dam.

Rising sea levels would destroy weak parts of the sand belt, which is essential for the protection of lagoons and the low-lying reclaimed lands. The impact would be very serious. One third of Egypt’s fish catches are made in the lagoons. Sea level rise would change the water quality and affect most fresh water fish. Valuable agricultural land would be inundated. Vital, low-lying installations in Alexandria and Port Said would be threatened. Recreational tourism beach facilities would be endangered and essential groundwater would be salinated. Dykes and protective measurements would probably prevent the worst flooding up to a 50 cm sea level rise. However, it would cause serious groundwater salination and the impact of increasing wave action would be serious.