Egyptian Project Document
Matrouh, Lakes Burullus and Bardawil

September 1999

par Web Team

This project is the Egyptian component of a Mediterranean regional initiative involving Albania, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Tunisia. The overall initiative is aimed at ensuring the sustainable management the biological diversity of the coastal areas and wetlands in 6 Mediterranean countries/Authority through the development of adequate legal and regulatory frameworks, the creation of institutional organizations adapted to the complexity of the issues at stake, capacity-building and the development of an exchange network at the regional level both to achieve economies of scale and to save time when implementing and replicating the innovating actions undertaken.

The objective of the project is to create or enhance the exchange structures and fora concerned with this general management:
-  By establishing interministerial coordination mechanisms for projects undertaken at the local and national levels;
-  By developing demonstration activities at the most significant sites;
-  By awareness-raising, training and networking of the population groups and the social and economic actors and establishing linkages between them around the Mediterranean basin.


The main objective of this project is to build capacity in the participating countries in the Mediterranean region to conserve threatened, globally significant biodiversity in coastal and wetland eco-systems within the framework of sustainable coastal development. The project therefore aims at «closing the Mediterranean circle», in terms of wetland and coastal conservation initiative. The project will ensure that lessons learned and experiences made in the northern rim of the Mediterranean can be effectively transferred and, where applicable, applied and/or adapted to the prevailing circumstances in the participating countries. The regionality of the project provides a greater cost effectiveness and effectiveness for such information and experience transfers both on a north-south basis as well as on a south-south basis.

For the purposes of this project, eligible wetlands, primarily of lagoon type, are those whose flows are interconnected with the Mediterranean Sea, while coastal areas are the terrestrial components of the coastal zone in the vicinity, and under the influence of the Mediterranean Sea. The project does therefore not address navigational and marine pollution issues and nor marine biodiversity. These are presently covered by other existing and planned programmes, in particular under MAP/UNEP (GEF PDF B: Formulation of a strategic action programme for the Mediterranean Sea to address pollution from land-based activities).

This proposal addresses conservation of globally threatened biodiversity in 16 important wetland and coastal sites in five Mediterranean countries and in the Palestinian Authority. Through a combination of innovative land-use and wetland policies at national level, site protection and management at local level and regional networking and exchange of experience the proposal will provide a biodiversity protection increment to other brown programme addressing pollution and water resource issues in the beneficiary countries/authority. At site level mechanisms for taking account of local concerns and ensuring local participation and economic returns are built into the project from the outset.

The Mediterranean region has seen the rise and fall of many empires over the last 2500 years. Numerous invasions and commercial links, many of them by sea, have seen eastern traders found cities in the western basin, Catalan influence extend as fax as Greece, and Arabic culture penetrate well into the Iberian peninsula. These fluxes, together with the enclosed nature of the sea, have led to the establishment of a common Mediterranean identity and culture. This identity is reinforced by the circum-Mediterranean climate of hot dry summers and rainy winters, which is also responsible for the development of ecosystems characteristic of the region.

The Mediterranean coastline (26,000 km) is an area of high biodiversity, where more than 50% of the 25,000 plant species are endemic to the region. It is also a critical area for migratory birds in the Africa-Palearctic flyway as wetlands in the region provide an essential flyway stepping stone on either side of the Mediterranean Sea and between the sea and the vast expanse of the Sahara desert to the south.

The major threats to the exceptional biodiversity of these wetland and coastal ecosystems related to uncontrolled development, urbanization, increasing national and international tourism, land-based pollution, and unplanned or over-exploitation of natural resources, in particular freshwater.

Aware of their common heritage, the Mediterranean States and European Union have developed common programmes and policies for the sustainable development and conservation of the coast since 1975. The Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP Regional Seas Programme), the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development, METAP, LIFE, MedWet, Natura 2000 and MEDA (EU) are some of these regional initiatives.

The MedWet programme for the conservation of Mediterranean wetlands originated from the Grado Conference (Italy, 1991). The initiative was recently widened (Venice, 1996) where all the riparian States present endorsed a common strategy for the conservation of Mediterranean wetlands. In parallel, the Mediterranean Action Plan, Conservatoire du Littoral (France) and Ramsar Convention secretariat held a joint technical meeting on coastal zone management (Hyeres, 1995) where 12 countries agreed on the need to develop land use policies for effective management of the coastal zone...

Today, the States of the Mediterranean region are at different stages of economic and institutional development and therefore differ in their capacity to address biodiversity issues within the context of sustainable development. Incremental funding is required to allow them to implement agreed regional policies in the field.

The overall GEF-funded Wetlands and Coastal project includes six countries/authorities, namely Albania, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority.


Egypt has a range of important wetlands, has signed the Ramsar, Biodiversity and Barcelona Conventions, and has formally expressed the wish to participate in the regional MedWet activity which promotes wetland conservation and management activities throughout the Mediterranean region 1 . Egypt has linkages to several biogeographical regions. The Red Sea coast links it to the tropical seas of the Indian Ocean. The river Nile to the afrotropical realm and the Mediterranean Sea has a major influence in the north of the country. Much of Egypt is desert with rainfall of less than 100mm per year, and only 3.2 % is cultivated.

The fertile lands of the Nile basin and the river itself provide the main resources of the country and its 62 million people. Over 97% of the population live in the Nile Valley and Delta which amounts to less than 3% of the total land area of the country. Densities in the Nile Delta reach 1,400 inhabitants/km 2 and population growth is estimated in excess of 2 % per year. The available land is increasingly unable to support the population, although 630,000 ha have been reclaimed since 1970. Urban populations are also on the rise; Greater Cairo is estimated to have 17 million inhabitants and is growing at a rate of around 3% per year. Land reclamation has failed to keep pace with encroachment of urban areas and 1 to 2% of agricultural land is thought to be lost to construction every year.

Egypt depends largely on the annual floods of the river Nile for its water resources. The 1959 agreement with Sudan guarantees an annual supply of 55.5 billion cubic liters per year regulated by the Aswan High Dam. Provisions for water-sharing with other upstream states are currently under discussion. Groundwater resources are commonly used in the Delta, although ground water is increasingly salinised due to sea-water intrusion. With the growth in population, Egypt will soon be unable to satisfy current consumption rates with finite resources. Water is provided virtually for free in rural areas and is under-priced in urban areas; therefore, incentives for its conservation are limited. In the future renewable resources will have to be carefully managed, including extensive water recycling, if the needs of the population are to be met.

Recycling of drainage water is high on the agenda, yet drainage water is often polluted with sewage, agricultural or industrial effluents, making these secondary water resources unsuitable for direct use. For example, the Nile River supplies 65% of industrial needs and receives 57% of its effluents; moreover, fish from the Delta lakes contain 5 - 10 times acceptable levels of DDT. Newly reclaimed land in Sinai and around Alexandria will be supplied with a mixture of fresh water and drainage water to ensure acceptable quality.

Egypt was self-sufficient in agriculture until the early 1970s, yet only produced 50% of the country’s needs in 1992. The principal crops include cereals (46% of land area), fodder crops (23%), vegetables (10%), followed by cotton (8%), and sugarcane, citrus and oil crops. All of these require some irrigation to complete their cycle and agriculture accounts for around 84% of Nile water use. Agricultural inputs, especially fertilizer and pesticides/herbicides are poorly regulated, although in recent years pesticide inputs have been declining thanks to increased extension work, and declining government subsidies. Livestock accounts for 25% of the value of agricultural production and fisheries for 4.5%.

In the Mediterranean coastal zone urban extension and secondary housing have spread outwards from existing urban centres and tourist developments developed ex nihilo. This has led to extensive land speculation along the whole coastline.

The MedWet activity is coordinated through the Ramsar Bureau and has the support of all the contracting parties of the region, and of the Conference of Contracting parties...

The biodiversity of Egypt is relatively well-known, and includes over 2100 plant species (60 endemics), 470 bird species, 100 reptiles and amphibians and 98 land mammals. The Red Sea coast harbours spectacular coral reefs and the desert habitats are extensive and, in places, rich in endemics or medicinal plant species. The Aswan High Dam has created a major wetland in the middle reaches of the Nile Valley, which along with the lagoons of the Nile Delta and the desert oases constitutes a rich network of ecosystems, although many of the Delta lagoons, such as Maryut and Manzala are now seriously polluted.

Environmental issues in Egypt have been neglected for many years, and only relatively recently has there been strong state commitment, and donor interest in supporting the implementation of measures to address them. Many of the environmental indicators on air pollution in Cairo, vehicle emissions, industrial outflows or water quality in the Nile and associated drainage system exceed internationally accepted norms, often by several orders of magnitude.

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