Vulnerability of the Nile Delta coastal areas to inundation by sea level rise


Sea level changes are typically caused by several natural phenomena, including ocean thermal expansion, glacial melt from Greenland and Antarctica. Global average sea level is expected to rise, through the twenty-first century, according to the IPCC projections by between 0.18 and 0.59 cm. Such a rise in sea level will significantly impact coastal area of the Nile Delta, consisting generally of lowland and is densely populated areas and accommodates significant proportion of Egypt’s economic activities and built-up areas. The Nile Delta has been examined in several previous studies, which worked under various hypothetical sea level rise (SLR) scenarios and provided different estimates of areas susceptible to inundation due to SLR. The paper intends, in this respect, to identify areas, as well as land use/land cover, susceptible to inundation by SLR based upon most recent scenarios of SLR, by the year 2100 using GIS. The results indicate that about 22.49, 42.18, and 49.22 % of the total area of coastal governorates of the Nile Delta would be susceptible to inundation under different scenarios of SLR. Also, it was found that 15.56 % of the total areas of the Nile Delta that would be vulnerable to inundation due to land subsidence only, even in the absence of any rise in sea level. Moreover, it was found that a considerable proportion of these areas (ranging between 32.32 and 53.66 %) are currently either wetland or undeveloped areas. Furthermore, natural and/or man-made structures, such as the banks of the International Coastal Highway, were found to provide unintended protection to some of these areas. This suggests that the inundation impact of SLR on the Nile Delta is less than previously reported.

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    This is contrast to studies that have conducted assuming hypothetical rises in sea level (for instance, a study on the Kingdom of Bahrain assumed three SLR scenarios: 0.50, 1.00, and 1.50 m rise above current sea level (Al-Jeneid et al. 2008)).

  2. 2.

    It is worth mentioning that the study in hand does not take into consideration changes in coastal dynamics, which may change due to sea level rise (for more details about such changes in coastal dynamics in the Nile Delta coastal area, see Frihy et al. (1994), (1998))

  3. 3.

    Some human-induced changes that may magnify the impacts of sea level rise in the Nile Delta include the construction of Aswan Dam which reduced silt transportation to by the River Nile (for more details see; El Raey et al. 1995b)


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This research work is part of a research project sponsored by the IDRC-Canada for establishing Alexandria Research Center for Adaptation to Climate Change

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Correspondence to M. A. Abdrabo.

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Hassaan, M.A., Abdrabo, M.A. Vulnerability of the Nile Delta coastal areas to inundation by sea level rise. Environ Monit Assess 185, 6607–6616 (2013).

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  • Nile Delta
  • Egypt
  • Sea level rise
  • Inundation