Fayoum, Egypt (CNN) -- In Egypt, water is so scarce some farmers are forced to use untreated sewage to irrigate their crops. Now, the government is trying to tackle problem by modernizing irrigation and teaching farmers to conserve water.
Salah Abdel Halim, an Egyptian farmer, is one of those affected by the water shortage.
He lives in the rural community of Tamiya, in Fayoum, 70 kilometers southwest of Cairo. It used to be a lush oasis, but is slowly being swallowed by the surrounding desert.
Halim grows maize, sugar beet and alfalfa on his feddan -- slightly less than half a hectare -- and earns barely enough to feed his family of six.
There is not enough fresh water for irrigation in the main canal so, like other local farmers, he relies on agricultural waste water blended with fresh water at a nearby plant.( Closed" what he means is factories that employed 600 workers)
"The water we receive for irrigation is a mere trickle," Halim told CNN. "It's freshwater mixed with drainage waste water."
Egypt, with its 80-million population, is below the UN's water poverty line of 1,000 cubic meters of water per person per year.
Fifty years ago, the country had 2,100 cubic meters of water per capita annually; now it has less than 800 cubic meters. The world average is more than 7,000 cubic meters, according to the UN.
Officials say population growth and sprawling urbanization are taking their toll.
I used to leave the tap water running ... I've now learnt to save every single drop.
--Faiza, farmer in Fayoum, Egypt
--Faiza, farmer in Fayoum, Egypt
For Halim, irrigation water is free, but he has to pay around £100 Egyptian ($20) a month for the maintenance and running of the pumps.
Local landowners and tenants have to wait their turn for water, which comes once every 10 to 15 days, if they are lucky.
Halim says the high salinity of the water is affecting soil fertility and, in extreme cases, causing the loss of agricultural land altogether.
But it's still better than what some farmers in the nearby village of Abul Nour have to do. They use untreated sewage to rescue their dying crops, at enormous health risks to the community and their thirsty animals.
The scarcity is driving many farmers to abandon their fields and seek more stable livelihoods elsewhere.
Those who have opted to stay are looking for new solutions.
Many have become members of water-user associations, groups that place farmers in state-sponsored water management projects.
The projects help farmers dig their own irrigation canals and educate them in water conservation.
"I used to leave the tap water running," said Faiza, a local farmer. "But that was before I attended these classes. I've now learnt to save every single drop."
Until now, modern water-saving methods such as drip irrigation and sprinklers have been reserved for reclaimed desert land because they are so costly.
Kamal Taha, of Fayoum Irrigation Directorate, said: "The water networks -- whether for drinking or irrigation -- are very old and in bad in need of maintenance and repair. We are now in the process of renewing them and we are also modernizing irrigation methods."
The government is trying to address its shortages using a combination of new technologies, water recycling and changing attitudes to encourage more cooperation and understanding.
Dia El Qousy, an adviser to the Ministry of Irrigation, said, "What Egypt is trying to do now is to convert vegetable fields and orchards in the Nile Valley and Delta from the conventional service irrigation into modern irrigation.
"We are starting with an area of about 700,000 feddans and this will save an extra amount of water.
all of which has to be cleared of the invading water Hyacinth,
"Everybody wants water and there's no way out as I see it, except with a win-win approach. Everybody has to win because the alternative is a lose-lose approach and this is what nobody would desire."now read the truth on what is happening in the Fayoum,
ONE of the reasons I have come back early is because I have been travelling around Egypt the wrong month to see the birds, not that I did not see any but most of the birds that come to Siwa oasis and the Lake Qaroun migrate here in the winter and from what the local people told me in both places the best time to see the birds is in February /March ,
The Lake qaroun has become such a cesspit that many of the birds do not go there any more the numbers have been dwindling over the past several years. one reason and the main reason is the pollution,
most of the surrounding villages including the Town of El Fayuom deposit the sewage in the lake Fayoum is 27 kilometres from the Lake, there are some people in Egypt who care about what is happening to the lake its supposed to be a wildlife protected area , the reason I left there was the police on the lake, On my second day in the Helnan Hotel, where I stayed after being told by yet another lying Egyptian taxi driver,this is the only hotel open near the lake. what he should have said was:- this is the only expensive hotel in the area:-
many other hotels and retreats have been closed by the powers that be
many other hotels and retreats have been closed by the powers that be
This next piece is taken from a eu page,
The condition of Lake Qaroun has deteriorated rapidly, since inlets and outlets are sealed off and drainage from approximately 482 million square meters of surrounding agricultural land filters into the lake, said Wafaa Amer, chairman of the environmental conservation division of the Ministry of the Environment. The drainage then evaporates and settles on the bottom of the lake as salts and nitrates.
Amer delivered her statement yesterday during a meeting of the agricultural committee within the People's Assembly in response to an information request filed by Hasan Abdel Ghufar. She asked for an inquiry into the declining fish levels in Lake Qaroun and for an investigation of threats from nearby industrial projects and wastewater.
An enormous amount of wastewater has found its way into the lake during the last year alone, said Amer, emphasizing that the pollution was due to poverty in the surrounding area and the harsh penalties imposed on farmers for committing infractions. "If I wanted to punish these people I would first give them an alternative way to make a living, instead of fining them and increasing the severity of the penalties, seeing as they have no other source of income," added Amer.
Egypt could meet the fish demand of the entire Arab world by establishing fish farms on the Mediterranean coast, ( this is what the laid off factory workers of Fayoum were told before mking the fish farms in Fayoum) she said, arguing, "We could emulate Cyprus, which uses helicopters to harvest the fish from its farms. After the fish are frozen, the helicopters could bring the fish back to other countries." She added, "It does not make sense for us to eat fish taken from waters in which we dump our sanitation and agricultural wastewater."
Kuwaiti businessman Nasir el-Kharafi has proposed seven projects to make use of the lake's water, and two factories have been shut down for polluting the environment, Amer confirmed.
IT DOES NOT MENTION THE BIGGER PROBLEM OF OIL POLLUTION :- MOTOR BOATS ARE NOT TO BE USED ON THE LAKE Many local people have boats with outboard engines that have not been used on the lake for several years these are tucked away in backyards and front gardens of the owners,
while walking along waters front where all the fishermen have their sail and rowing boats. I saw some police chasing each other in inflatable dinghies on the lake I asked The guy I was with what was going on and was told they do this all the time. Has the sail boat done something wrong I asked, he said no. do they stop the sail boats for money, like the do in Luxor and Aswan:- I asked. sometimes he said depends if they have small fish. What do you mean I asked again: the fishermen can only take a certain size of fish from the lake, some abide by the rules others do not. because we local people prefer the smaller fish for grilling. they also taste much better because the longer they are in the lake the more pollution the take in,and this makes a bad taste on the fish, after seeing the murky waters of the lake its quite audible that the lake is polluted to quite a high content, also the salt levels are very high. this I found out before I read up on the last article.
So I asked again if you the locals cannot have motorized boats what are the police doing with seven ,
Surely they can inspect catches as the boat comes to shore. all they need then is one police man in a patrol vehicle in each area of boat landings. this is Egypt Mr Tony. they make the law and they break the laws. no matter if the yanks or the UN. or Our minister of environment make the laws. laws in Egypt are meant to be Broken. and another man became quiet knowing he had said too much, its so sad that the Egyptian people cannot do anything to protect their living and livelihood, and being lied to by government officials. that they can grow and feed fish to the whole Arab countries.
I had decided to stay for another week, the previous day I met the owner of a fish restaurant and after a very nice meal of local shrimps and local veg Etc, we had a talk and one thing led to another and the offer of a flat was brought up. , I went to see several of the flats in the vicinity of the restaurant an the Lake front.
and after a lot of bargaining and telling him I was almost an Egyptian etc, I got the price down to 60le per night no further negotiation on a weeks rent, and of I went to enjoy my rather expensive last night in the hotel. I used all its commodities like a free swimming pool and a free bird watch from its terraces overlooking Lake Qaroun, I got down to do a bit of blogging and downloaded my photos of the day from the camera. Close to the phone was the dial for this and that, . why not I thought spoil myself one time:
On the dressing table there was also a cuisine price list, pot of tea with milk , lovely, 10le. Then I came to my favourite sweet, crème caramel. yummy yummy, price 20le.
and again I thought why not, picked up the telephone dial 2 for room service. Hello room service,
Ana ais wa chai hallib wa crem caramel. bait 107,shukran'
easy one would think in a all Egyptian staff hotel.
say again please,
then I tried English.
Please may I have a pot of tea with milk, and a crème caramel, in room one hundred and seven.
ok so i asked in my native tongue.
Gai cwpaned o de a creme caramel. os gwelwch un dda.custudle cant a saith,
and again the room service said say again please, and I wondered if I was talking to a robot,
put the phone down and went to the reception to order.
He must of understood what I said even though it was in Arabic, because he asked for my room number.
and off I toddled back to my room,
half an hour later my order came, with the bill of 44le. one cup of coffee, and crème caramel with a blob of synthetic cream and a cherry on top, the cherry was on the cream not the cream and cherry on the crème caramel, The cream may have filled half a teaspoon so the cream was dwarfed by the glazed cherry.
Did not make a fuss I thought maybe the rich always get coffee and a blob of cream with their creme caramel makes up for the price they have to pay in their everyday life, and by this time all the anger had gone and I paid the man. one thing that put a smile on my face was the amount of sugar sleeves they gave there was sweetener, white sugar, cream coloured sugar but no brown sugar, and that to me as a very rare coffee drinker is an offence. and the coffee was the worst I have had while living in Egypt, and I did not even order it.the following morning still in Enjoy my money hotel mode,
I was up at first light. taking a dip and watching the birds coming in to eat whatever was left over from the night people,s food. bits of bread some nuts maybe, usually plenty of nuts about.