The Egyptian Organization For Human Rights issued a qualitative report entitled

December 17th, 2009 by Editor

 “Water pollution: a time  bomb threatening  the life of Egyptians”

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights(EOHR) issued its qualitative report entitled “Water pollution: a time  bomb threatening  the life of Egyptians”  on Thursday 17/12/2009 as part of the reports series issued by EOHR on the status of economic and social rights.

 The number of cases monitored by the  report during the period from 2008 – October 2009  is 41 cases of violation committed against  the right to water, distributed between the problems of irrigation with  8 cases, and lack of drinking water with  33 cases.
The report reveals a set of challenges facing the water file  in Egypt, and perhaps most important are as follows:

– The rate of pollution in Egypt is more than threefold of the world rates, as pollution reached a complex stage and it is difficult to be faced. The  industrial contaminants which is untreated or partially treated and being  emptied into the water reached  4.5 million tons per year, including 50 thousand tons of materials which is considered very harmful, besides,  35 thousand tons of the chemical industrial  imports. The percentage of industrial organic pollutants thrown in  the waterways is 270 tons per day equal to the amount of pollution resulting from 6 million persons. The solid wastes which being dumped in water annually are about14 million tons, while the volume of pollutants released from hospitals  is about120 thousand tons per year, including 25 thousand tons of materials that is considered  very harmful , besides the increase rate of poisoning resulted from pollution in the Egyptian governorates , the rate in Cairo governorate reached 35 % of the poisoning cases, 12 % in Giza governorate and 50% in Kaliobia governorate.

– Irrigating  agricultural lands  with sewage  water , there are 38 million Egyptians  drink from sewage   water, and 4500 villages  of seven thousand villages are still dependent on the toilet pits as a result of  the absence of sewage systems,  and 76% of the village water  is mixed with sewage water .

 – Inequitable distribution of water on  the republic level, there is a lack of justice in the distribution of drinkable  water between the city and village, about 38% of villages are covered by only drinking water, and 56% of villages which water  is inadequate, and 6% of villages completely deprived from drinking water ,which means the absence of justice and the structural balances in the distribution of water level throughout the Republic.
– According to many reports and studies on the subject of water , there are 100 thousand persons infected with kidney failure every  year in Egypt because of water pollution.
– Egypt may face a real problem of water deficiency by the year 2015 in the light of growing needs and the stability amount of available water the matter which requires a rational use on a large scale, the rate of individual is increased to 400 liters in Cairo and Alexandria, while the international rates are 200 liters per day . Also 80% of the drinkable water  goes for agriculture, 15% for industry, electricity and energy and 5% for local use. Currently, the proportion of water used for drinking ,household uses  is about 10% of the volume of water resources, and  reached  7 billion cubic meters per year. Our production of drinking water provides 250 liters per day for citizen. The problem is concentrated in  the terrible waste of water and misuse of it , for example, most of lands is  currently supplied with surface  irrigation  system. The cultivated lands from the old or new lands is about 8 million acres, of which about 6 million acres planted  under surface irrigation system. 

As a result for  the use of surface irrigation system,  lands became  unfit for cultivation, because of Lands’ saturation with water  and salinity. Most of peasants are using 70% of water more than their needs and more than 60% of irrigation water is lost before it reaches the plants, while the efficiency of spray irrigation is about 75% and the efficiency of dripping system reaches about 90%. We must take into account the trend of encouraging cultivation  that do not consume huge quantities of water.

These challenges come  despite the government’s assertion to double the financial allocations for swage  water system projects on the republic level for plan 2009-2010 which equal to one and half of the main balance .

According to the declared  numbers , the initial value that has been allocated for sewage projects was about 3.4 billion pounds to finish 89 projects in 64 cities and 181 villages with high underground water level, the financial allocations have been increased to 8.7 billion pounds, while the financial allocations for drinking water projects will be  4.7 billion pounds.

It is worth noting that the first balance of the ministry’s plan was  4.4 billion pounds, and the share of drinking water projects was  billion pounds to achieve  55 projects and 3.4 billion pounds for sewage system  to achieve 270 projects.

– In a report of the World Bank issued in March 2009 entitled “Optimal utilization of water scarcity: accountability in order to improve the results of water management in the Middle East and North Africa,” . The report stated that  about 1,1 billion persons suffer from obtaining clean water  and about 2,6 million persons  in a short need for sewage utilities.  According to the data of  “World Water Council,” by the year 2025 approximately 3,5 billion individuals  will be in places where water is scarce or is about to become so.

In the light of the escalating water crisis in the country EOHR recommends the following :
1 – Adopting  a strategy or plan to state the right to water,  the proposed strategy is based on several measures:

-The development of water resources,

-The improvement of  the efficient use of water resources currently available

– Protecting  public health and the environment.

– Increasing the financial resources allocated for policies and water resources and the mechanisms of improving it especially after the government decreased the balance of drinking water sector and sewage system, as the investment  allocations during balance 2009/2010 reached 5.9 billion pounds to witness a retreat from the previous year’s balance  2008/2009 with  10 billion pounds.  

 Also the strategy in this regard should depend on the following :

– Law and  principles of human rights.
– Cover all aspects of the right to water and the state’s commitments as the strategy has to  establish state responsibility for the occurrence of any negligence , and identify resources available to meet the needs and  goals and  to allocate resources in a manner that fits the framework of the problem faced by the State , and establish a national mechanisms for internal accountability to ensure implementation of the strategy. The State, in the formulation and implementation of national strategies for the right to water, could benefit from technical assistance and cooperation provided by specialized agencies of the United Nations in this context.

– Setting targets or goals to be achieved .
– Respecting the principles of non-discrimination and people’s participation when adopting  and implementing strategies and plans for water .

In this regard , the international reports concerned with water cases  confirmed the necessary of improving the public accountability for the governmental bodies and institutions and companies which produce water services. Governments, institutions and companies which produce services should see a clear results for the performance , to achieve this , the principle of accountability should be a achieved in order to know  for the public what the reasons for the decision-making and outputs that may be expected.   

The report recommends to set  a national plan involving the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources , the Ministry of Agriculture , the Ministry of Housing  and the Ministry of Information since the latter will  support the participation of citizens and farmers in the management of water resources and giving them the sense of ownership of irrigation and sewage systems, besides gathering all media efforts on all levels to achieve  its noble mission and its role in handling water case as regarded one of the main investment cases.

As for the  Ministry of Housing,  it should develop the system of water station and sewage system to cope with the modern international systems taking into account that the national plan should include another plan for the replacement and renewal of the existed water stations  and another plan for the replacement and renewal of networks drainage  systems and leakage problems and to solve the problem of non application for technical standards in installing water networks thereby increasing the rate of leaking to reach 50% which in turn leads to the loss of nearly 40% of the productive capacity of drinking water.

In addition to the above, it is necessary to raise the efficiency of water and sewage networks and to draw a high detailed maps for these nets and to divide nets to sections in order to control each section electronically and to work to decrease the loss of networks by using the modern tools that detect places of leakage.

As for the Ministry of local development, it should encourage the public leaders in villages to stir up inhabitants to share in funding small systems for drinking water systems and sewage systems to eliminate the problem of lack of commitment at some stations by secure  chlorine.  

2 – Reconsidering  legislations, strategies and water policies to ensure compliance with the obligations arising from the right to water stated in international covenants and conventions which were ratified by Egypt and to develop regulations governing the exploitation of water and to monitor the application of these regulations carefully and firmly.

3 – Uniting efforts of the competent institutions concerned to give effect to the provisions of the Environmental Law No. 4 of 1994 and the provisions of Law No. 48 of 1982 on the protection of the River Nile and waterways from pollution.
4 – Protecting  the  natural water resources from contamination by harmful substances and dangerous germs, and giving priority to the problem of sewage systems in villages and cities, and the need to use the Ozone instead of chlorine in the water to kill microbes and establish the required stations to treat the polluted industrial water and human waste water and water used in the tanneries, slaughterhouses, and others places  before throwing it in clean streams .

5 – Circling areas in which to extract the groundwater used to supply inhabitants with a belt that  commensurate with the magnitude of consumption, to prevent agriculture or construction or roads near this belt and to monitor the closed water areas from harmful or toxic substances.

6 – Supporting  and expanding  the work of chemical analysis  laboratories related to monitor  water pollution, and conduct periodic analysis of water quality and to give special attention to the environment conditions in the water of rivers, irrigation nets, lakes and coastal water, monitoring of pollution, and to take procedures to protect them from chemical pollution.

7 – Specifying television and radio programs aimed at enhancing water drop  (the policy of consumption ), and to address all categories  of society in this regard, particularly women,

with the participation of the executive bodies , People’s Councils , leaders of opinion, intellectuals and the press and media personnel , and NGOs with the use of modern technology that can be used to re-use of water and make it suitable for drinking again.

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