CAIRO: Thirty envoys from the European Union concluded a two-day tour of the Toshka Project.
The envoys, representing a range of countries, from Russia to Japan, were invited to tour the project courtesy of the Holding Trade Company in cooperation with the Egyptian Business Counsel, the Minster of Investment and the Chairman of the Egyptian European Business Counsel Ibrahim Kamel.
The envoys were also joined by delegates from the World Bank in Cairo and the Ambassador of the European Commission in Egypt Klaus Ebermann.
The tour, which is part of an inspection visit of this large-scale development project in southern Egypt and included stops at the Mubarak pumping station, was held in order to allow European investors to get better acquainted with the work process and developments in Toshka in addition to the surrounding agricultural and housing projects.
In addition to familiarizing investors with the projects and its latest developments, the visit also aims at promoting the project to attract new local and European investors to foot the bill of the project’s total estimated cost of LE 5.78 billion.
According to the Holding Trade Company, the project will also serve to increase the number of cultivated lands to reach one million acres, irrigated using the Nile water as well as underground water.
An urban community will also be established as a result of development of the area around the cultivated land.
Minister of Investment Mahmoud Mohieddin stated that depending on raw material available, various industries could be established.
He also added that the government’s role includes building the infrastructure of the project in addition to management and maintenance.
In 1992, the Toshka Project was born, with President Mubarak personally launching what has become the nation’s largest project, in the late 1990s, with (construction began in 1997) to create a new delta, designed to ease the population pressure on the centuries-old Nile Valley.
The project mirrors an integrated strategic vision and is a complete system that includes a number of projects in agriculture, industry, mining and tourism domains. It will also include a number of social projects and services such as health and education, which will be introduced in the project’s final stages of completion.
While it has been hailed by many, the Toshka Project has also encountered a number of critics. Economists have questioned its profitability and environmentalists are worried about its demands on Nile water.
As far back as 2000, the construction cost of the project has plagued politicians.
I m afraid that this project will turn out to be a drain on the economy, said Ibrahim El-Nimiki, the deputy chairman of the Assembly s Legislative Committee at the time, according to an article in Al Ahram Weekly in 2000.
In the days of former prime minister, Kamal El-Ganzouri, there was a lot of optimism about this project. No sooner had El-Ganzouri been replaced than his rivals in government circles began painting a very pessimistic picture. We, parliamentarians, as well as the man in the street, need to know the truth. Is Toshka an economically feasible project? he was quoted as saying.
The article also went on to state that upon the deputies’ request for more information, the minister of water resources and irrigation revealed all the facts about Toshka in parliament.
Some say Toshka was implemented out of the blue and at an unjustified speed. No; Toshka has been on the reclamation map and on the waiting list for implementation, Mahmoud Abu-Zeid was quoted as saying.
According to Al Ahram, at the time Abu-Zeid said that a number of feasibility studies, costing $4.5 million, showed that in ancient times Toshka was the nation s bread and butter.