Environmental Scientific Column

Europe and the southern shore. Again problems of water

by Lavinio Gualdesi

HERSE, the Goddess of Dew.

HERSE, the Goddess of Dew, was the original idea of a European Project whose primary objective was to provide a completely new source of high-quality drinking water using an industrial issue of natural condensation.

Providing a new water source had the potential to initiate a positive paradigm shift in social and economic life in North African Rim (NAR) countries and other areas deprived of a source of clean and safe drinking water.

A primary aspect of this project was to apply water supply technology to areas identified as being subject to water stress and suffering from water scarcity in an international context.

This project aimed to alleviate a substantial part of the water stress situation in non-EU Mediterranean countries. Elsewhere in Africa, especially in sub-Saharan countries with high humidity and temperatures or in populated coastal regions where maritime air extends to the mainland, conditions are such that even HERSE technology was a candidate to function efficiently.

In the phase of composition of the consortium, the search for North African partners turned out to be easier than expected. The enthusiasm shown by all three Professors, who agreed to be part of the consortium, was strengthening the whole group to the point that a splendid and lasting friendship was immediately established.

In telling this story in three articles, concerning as many colleagues in the consortium, I would like to begin by describing an important element of this history of North African scientific collaboration.

Suez Canal University.

Mohamed Tawfic Ahmed is a professor at Suez Canal University in Ismailia, Egypt, who ranges freely and comprehensively between the problems generated by agriculture from climate change, to the proliferation of alien species in the Mediterranean, from the transport of contaminants of the Nile river, to the consequences on wildlife of the contaminants of the agri-food industry to end up with the necessary and decisive measures to be taken urgently to counter the rapid depletion of resources and how to treat wastewater.

A conspicuous harvest of publications studded his career as a researcher, the most famous and full-bodied of which are published within the United Nation Environment Program.

Although the HERSE project obtained a very high score it was not funded, but this did not influence our esteem and collaboration relationships.

To describe the precious operational aspect of Professor Tawfic Ahmed I selected this project developed by him with the patronage of the aforementioned UNEP.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) is an international initiative that aims to advise decision makers about the impact of industrial development on the environmental environment and human well-being. The MA is a multiscale assessment that consists of interconnected assessments undertaken on a local, national, regional and global scale.

Sub-global assessments directly meet the needs of decision makers during the development phase, strengthen global discovery on the ground of reality, and strengthen local outcomes with global perspectives, data and models.

In Egypt, a sub-global assessment of the local community was conducted in El Maghara, in northern Sinai, one of the driest and remote  parts of Egypt overlooking the Mediterranean. El Maghara is inhabited exclusively by Bedouins, identified by a special lifestyle, mainly governed by the local culture. Bedouin are nomadic population, proud of its tribal and warrior culture, and dedicated to trade and pastoralism by transhumance.

The El Maghara assessment followed the MA conceptual framework in which ecosystem services were identified, trends and conditions were monitored. The conceptual framework also included building scenarios to provide a suitable future view of assessment and the uncertainties that can increase, affecting people and their environment.

Diagrams from Dr. M.T. Ahmed publication

The environmental issues dealt with socio-economic problems present in the area.

The document consists of six very long and detailed chapters full of data and specific medium and long term measures.

Section 1 introduces the problems and objectives of the study.

Section 2 outlines the scenario process framework.

Section 3 identifies key drivers using the MIC-MAC method.

Section 4 analyses the objectives and positions of the main stakeholders using the Mactor method.

In section 5, both quantitative and qualitative approaches – which build on the results of the MIC- MAC and Mactor methods – are used to portray how plot scenarios can unfold. Finally, in section 6 interesting conclusions are drawn. (*Mohamed Tawfic Ahmed, ECOSYSTEMS AND HUMAN WELL-BEING, El Maghara, Northern Sinai, Egypt, UNEP).

Another interesting work by Prof. Mohamed Tawfic concerns a lecture given during the Africa Day Symposium during which the consequences of climate change and anthropogenic impact on the delicate African environmental system are considered.

(Africa Day Symposium United Nations University, Tokyo, Japan May, 2010).

To complete the demonstration of how the studies of Professor Mohamed Tawfic concern all the most important socio-economic topics of environmental aspects, the summary of a 2014 study on persistent organic pollutants is reported below.

“In recent decades, scientists around the world have revealed the sinister impacts persistent organic pollutants (POPs) could have on humans and their environment. Growing interest in POP monitoring and management was growing worldwide, and Egypt was no exception. Egypt ratified the Stockholm Convention for the control of POP release and had its National Implementation Plan (NIP) in agreement with the other signatory countries. On the other hand, a series of environmental measures have been adopted to protect the environment aimed, among other things, at minimizing the emission of POPs in the various environmental segments. An important component of the PIN was the preparation of an inventory of POPs produced by major industries and other businesses. The use of POPs in Egypt was mainly limited to organo-chlorinated pesticides and cyclodiene, which are widely used to protect income crops. With Egypt in step with the industry-based economy, numerous industries have been created that are likely to use. 

Residues of some POPs, most notably DDT and other pesticides, have been monitored in a variety of environmental matrices including seawater, freshwater, humans, food, and many more. PCDD and PCDF monitoring studies have been relatively less frequent due to the special techniques required. This review sheds light on some of the prevailing conditions of POPs, their issuance, management and institutional aspects.

(Mohamed Tawfic Ahmed, PERSISTENT ORGANIC POLLUTANTS IN EGYPT – AN OVERVIEW, Chapter January 2006 DOI: 10.1007 / 978-1-4020-4728-2_2)


So it can be concluded that even a tactical flaw  did not prevent him from establishing a valuable scientific contact that has been perpetuated over the years through other collaborations. This important contact, even if occasional, 

has contributed to transforming in my memories the charming town of Ismailia of 1964, from a vestige of a British colony, in the prestigious seat of the Egyptian Academy of the Suez Canal, highly motivated and motivating in the field of socio-environmental problems of the Mediterranean Sea.

Lavinio Gualdesi