- Title: EGYPT: Water shortage woes hit outskirts of Cairo
- Date: 5th September 2007
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) VILLAGER ABDUL GAWAD ABDUL QADER SAYING: "The water situation now is that we are next to the Nile, two or three kilometres from it, we carry water. And if I live at the end of the town, why do I have to carry water for a kilometre? And why for money? Money is not the problem. The most important thing is that it (water) be available. The water has to be there. Water and a sewage system, this village needs two things, two basic things, water and sewage."
- Embargoed: 20th September 2007 13:00
- Location: Egypt
- Country: Egypt
- Topics: Industry
- Reuters ID: LVA4WHNOVH72MAB5PGRF6LJJE5AA
- Story Text: Villagers in Harraniya just outside Cairo are struggling with water shortages and a poor sewage system during the hottest part of the summer.
As the long summer wanes in Egypt, many people in rural villages and poorer urban areas continue to suffer from water shortages that have left them resentful at a government they say has failed to provide for their most basic needs.
Like so many of the villages and slums that have risen around Cairo to absorb waves of migrants from the countryside, the village of Harraniya in the Giza area is built on what was once farmland.
The shoddily built red brick houses, known as Ashwaiyaat, are home to millions of Egyptians who barely register on government maps, and who have just the barest infrastructure to provide for their water or electricity needs.
It is a system that has broken down in the summer heat again this year, and with water pipes running dry or infected by sewage, many have been forced to buy fresh water from merchants who transport water on donkey carts.
Water seller Haj Fahmy Abbas says people have to go long distances to get fresh water.
"This has been going on for a long time. There is no water, at all. Water is forbidden. We were drinking from the water pump, but now the water pump is harming people. Now they get water from Giza. And where do they get it from? From Talabaya, from Haram -- someone like me brings jerrycans from place to place. There is nothing other than that," he said.
Intermittent protests have broken out in response to the crisis, with angry people blocking highways in some areas and clashing with the police.
The lack of fresh water is a painful irony for the residents of Harraniya, who live in such close proximity to the river Nile. The river provides fresh water for most Egyptians.
But massive population growth and government mismanagement have meant that not even the Nile can meet the needs of Egypt's 76 million citizens, with the country running a 20 billion cubic metre water deficit per year, according to official figures.
Abdul Gawad Abdul Qader, who came to buy a jerrycan of fresh water for his family, says the situation is desperate.
"The water situation now is that we are next to the Nile, two or three kilometres from it, we carry water. And if I live at the end of the town, why do I have to carry water for a kilometre? And why for money? Money is not the problem. The most important thing is that it (water) be available.
The water has to be there. Water and a sewage system, this village needs two things, two basic things, water and sewage," he said.
In crowded slums like Harraniya, the lack of a proper infrastructure means that the water supply is often contaminated with sewage, creating a danger that water-borne illnesses like diarrhea and dehydration might spread.
Harraniya resident Haj Jaber Ahmed al-Najjar says the constant water and sewage problems have led to conflict and hardship. "The problem has been there for the last three years. We used buy the jerrycans for 75 piastres (about 0.13 U.S. dollars), with clashes, fighting with each other, and they sue each other in court over water. One person wants to sell it for a pound (about 0.18 U.S. dollars), the other one wants to sell it for 75 piastres. So they fight with each other and there is a case in the police station -- go and see it. And there is no drinking water at all. The problem of water is a big problem, that and sewage. The sewage here comes into our homes, and of course there is no water from the government, all of it is through a private system. If you turn on the water pumps it comes out with sewage, because the sewage system is very close to it. So I can either drink water with sewage or buy a jerrycan for a pound. We don't know who we should complain to," he said.
While the residents of slums like Harraniya fume, the Egyptian government says it is doing all it can to manage the effects of massive population growth that put a strain on the country's resources.
The government announced last month it was allocating one billion Egyptian pounds -- about 177 million U.S. dollars -- in emergency funds to deal with the worst hit areas. It said the funds would be used to build new water pipes, dig hundreds of new wells in rural areas and build a hundred water purification plants.
But for women like Hayam Ahmed, who passes daily by a dry water standpipe surrounded by open sewage filling the street, the aid is too little too late.
"I swear to God I cannot find drinking water, and there is all of this sewage and filth, and we cannot find drinking water. And you can wait for a week and the car (water seller's cart) might not come, and we won't have a sip of water to drink. So they'll take a car to go fill (the jerrycans). There is no water. Look at the state of our streets, with this awful smell and filth," she said.
The government has also recently said that 40 per cent of Egyptian towns and over 90 percent of villages lack functioning sewage systems.
The resentment in places like Harraniya is particularly acute in a country where disparities in income are sharp. Upper class suburbs have sprung up outside the capital in recent years with manicured laws, swimming pools and well watered golf courses.
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