The legendary city of Alexandria, founded millennia ago by Alexander the Great and home to many wonders of the ancient world, now faces a new and inexorable threat as steadily rising sea levels are set to leave many of its neighbourhoods and archaeological sites at risk of flooding.
While local authorities move to construct concrete barriers at sea to stave off this danger, a powerful storm that ravaged the city in 2015 ended up "exposing weaknesses in the local infrastructure," as AP put it.
The city’s predicament is further exacerbated by its location, as Alexandria is surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea and backs up to a lake.
Previously, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the possible rise of sea levels, from 0.28 to 0.98 meters by 2100, will have "serious implications for coastal cities, deltas and low-lying states."
Egypt's Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation notes that while the sea level rose by an average of 1.8 millimeters annually until 1993, this figure increased to 2.1 millimeters annually during the next two decades, and since 2012 it has reached 3.2 millimeters annually which is "enough to threaten building foundations."
Residents of the el-Max neighborhood, where hundreds were forced to abandon their homes after the flooding of 2015, also complained that the sea defences installed by the authorities to protect the area, which houses a number of industrial facilities including an oil refinery and a cement plant, are not very effective.
"Every year the waves are much stronger than the previous year," a 39-year-old fisherman named Abdel-Nabi el-Sayad said. "We did not see any improvement. They just forced people to leave."
Ashour Abdel-Karim, head of Egyptian General Authority for Shores Protection, revealed that the government allocated over $120 million towards the construction of protective barriers along the shore, noting that without these measures, parts of the city’s waterfront and buildings located close to the shore would sustain damage.
"We are aware that this street, which survived for hundreds of years, could be underwater in the coming years, in our lifetime," said Mohammed Mahrous, who works for a bookstore located on Prophet Daniel Street, which is considered one of the world’s oldest. "Every year the waves are stronger than in the previous one. The winter is harsher and the summer is more sweltering."