Prof calls for delta cities funding

Civil engineering professor Marawan Shahien said that delta cities around the world need to come together to find ways of raising funds to combat rising sea-levels.

The remark came during a discussion after the screening of two documentaries as part of the Fate of our Earth Documentary Series, organized by the American University in Cairo (AUC) and the Wadi Environmental Science Center (WESC). The series has been running since 30 January.

Shahien was commenting on the second documentary, Connecting Delta Cities, which looks at the dangers posed to Alexandria, New York, Jakarta and Rotterdam by rising sea-levels.

According to the program, even conservative estimates of sea-level rise (SLR)–59 centimeters within the next century– suggest significant dangers for these delta cities. However, the event ended on an optimistic note by stressing the need for an exchange of ideas and collaboration between the various cities in threat.

Shahien, however, noted that while this was a good start, ultimately these same cities will have to come together to fund projects to deter the sea from invading their coasts.

The Tanta University associate professor highlighted a plan by civil engineer Mamdouh Hamza, which proposes the building of an underground plastic concrete wall along the coast. The wall would raise the coast itself, while protecting underground fresh water from being infringed on by Mediterranean salt water.

The controversial plan, which is expected to cost some LE20 billion, was first proposed in November 2007. No government decision has yet been taken on the matter.

Another possible solution, briefly highlighted by Shahien, is a regional approach, which would use sea-based gateways along the Strait of Gibraltar and in the south Red Sea to control the flow of water in and out of the Mediterranean.

Drawing attention to a separate though still water-related matter, the first documentary was titled Death of the Nile. It follows science journalist Nadia el-Awady as she travels between villages in Egypt while looking at problems raised by poor sanitation services and the dumping of industrial effluent into village canals.

The program spotlighted the problems of extending water pipes into homes that still depend on septic tanks to store their sewage.

The next documentary in the series will be screened at AUC’s Oriental Hall on 29 May. Titled Earth Report: State of the Planet 2009, it will be the last of four documentaries, all leading up to World Environment Day on 5 June.

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