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The right to water in Egypt

December 11, 2014 by   ·   No comments

Water is a severely limited resource in Egypt.  Most people in cities have access to water, though not on a regular basis (with cuts of a couple of hours a day on average since the last couple of years).  In villages on the other hand, access to water is often lacking.  And when they have access to water they are mostly supplied with sewage infested ground water and more than half of the villages are run through a rotation system.

Egypt’s water sector reform was reformed in 2006 to pave the way for privatisation and public private partnerships. Despite unprecedented investment in new stations, access to water got worse and continues to do so.  This was caused by the following issues;

First of all, the investments are misallocated, more than half of investments go to new cities (360 million euro out of 600 million in 2013) where only 1 million people live (versus 80 million people in the rest of Cairo).  This investment in the new cities, which has been hidden from public, is a result of lobbying by real-estate companies and decision makers who benefit from the ongoing speculation.

Secondly, the legislation and the new institutional set-up was implemented under financial pressure from the EU and other donors.  This reform thus had no popular support, and only the priorities these donors pressed most for, an introduction of public-private partnerships were implemented, while the proposed regulator for example seems to be postponed indefinitely. There’s a general decline of service, accountability and transparency in the water sector since the reform. This was also noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to water during her visit to Egypt in 2009. She stated that it is”exceedingly difficult to obtain information about the quality of (…) drinking water” and “there was confusion about where to send complaints”. Furthermore, “[t]he overlapping responsibilities create a situation where no institution considers itself accountable for the problem in question”. Accordingly, so the Special Rapport, “the overall lack of transparency and access to information in the water and sanitation sectors creates an atmosphere of suspicion, which is characterized by a lack of confidence in the quality of drinking water and overall distrust of the Government and the Holding Company.”

The donors insist that there is only one sollution, more public private partnerships, while at the same time, the massive New Cairo Waste Water Station that would pioneer these public private partnerships in one of the new cities stands idle.  One million people in the Delta could be supplied with drinking water for 40 million $ while the contract for the New Cairo Waste Water Station is worth 580 million $.  Egypt is in a big budgetary crisis and fully depends on loans from its neighbours and the same donors which pressed for these PPPs.  These donors and the government are still undettered about the impact of PPPS on Egypt’s budget, at least seven new public private parterships have been announced, and when the EBRD in February 2013 bailed out the pioneering New Cairo Waste Water Station theyannounced that making this additional investment wasn’t a monetary contribution but a political contribution.


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