In Egypt, water institute IHE Delft is introducing a unique water management system to make flooding a thing of the past. In doing so it is helping a city which is not used to flooding to become resistant to weather extremes with the help of its residents, authorities and local experts.
In autumn of 2015, Alexandria suffered severe flooding in which seven people were killed. Conservative estimates set the damage around 25 million euros, but the real costs were likely to be ten times this amount. There was no early warning system.
Dutch delta team
The rain was able to cause so many deaths because Egypt's second city (5 million inhabitants) was totally unprepared. Water channels intended to discharge the water to the Mediterranean clogged up with rubbish. Alexandria’s ever expanding slums occupy all the traditional flood plains. The failure to respond adequately led to the resignation of the city mayor. Constructing a new drainage network in the narrow streets of the historic city was a huge and costly task. So help was enlisted from the renowned IHE water institute in Delft and its flood resilience Professor Chris Zevenbergen. Six weeks later he led a ‘Dutch Delta Team Egypt’ mission to Alexandria.
Early warning system
As well as implementing long-term solutions such as drainage and flood defences, the team had to develop a low-budget early-warning system in the short term. This resulted in the Anticipatory Flood Management Alexandria (AFMA) project, a public-private partnership (PPP) involving NGOs, (technical) companies, knowledge institutions (IHE and the University of Alexandria) and the Egyptian authorities, to make the city resistant to severe rainfall. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency provided a subsidy for 2 million euros. In addition to tackling water issues, the PPP had to tackle issues such as inclusive green growth, self-reliance and resilience and poverty reduction.
The residents of the poorest and most vulnerable districts play an important role in the AFMA project. Five hundred 'water ambassadors', at least half of whom are women, are receiving training to increase water awareness and alertness with regard to the risk of flooding. The water ambassadors are also being equipped with mobile phones fitted with mobile sensors that record rainfall and flood data.
To find out more about this project read the original Vice Versa World of Water article Alexandria: floods are a thing of the past on page 20.