CAIRO: Protests over shortages of clean drinking water have spread to a number of governorates in recent days.
Residents of towns and villages in Giza, Qalyubia, and Beni Sueif have taken to the streets, with some protesting outside the homes of officials, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.
The protests echo the continuing unrest in Dakahlia governorate over the deteriorating water situation there, which threatens the lives of thousands of families.
A common complaint has been that priority for limited water resources is given to the wealthy, government officials and tourist areas.
Residents of Saft Al-Laban, Giza – brandishing water pitchers and threatening to stop traffic on the ring road – complained that water was reaching the Al-Zayed private school, which is owned by a member of the parliment, as well as the houses of members of the ruling National Democratic party living on Tahrir Street.
Around 50 people in the village of Shibin Al-Qanater, Qalyubia, staged a sit-in in front of the local municipal council, and many residents in Dakahlia demonstrated outside the office of the Governor General Ahmed Saeed Sawan, as protests there run into their third week.
Uneven access to clean drinking water throughout the country is due to the absence of an established water network, according to the Director of the Institute for National Planning, Ola Hakim.
“In some areas there is no potable water at all, Hakim told Daily News Egypt. “The government could transport water there free of charge, but that would be costly and inefficient, she explained.
“NGOs need to play a bigger role and coordinate better with the government. And international donors like Unicef and the UNDP could be doing more as well.
Hakim believes that although the government had been late to act on the problem, it was now taking it “extremely seriously.
“They have passed a resolution allocating LE 2 billion to resolve this situation, she said, adding that a reliable network would be needed to prevent these shortages from recurring in the long term.
But Habiba Wasses, a specialist on water sanitation at the United Nations Development Program, questioned how the shortage could be treated in the immediate future.
“I keep hearing about the government allocating resources to fund long-term projects, but that does not help people who need water right now, she told Daily News Egypt.
Estimates have emerged in the press that in Dakahlia alone, 100,000 people face sickness or death as a result of clean water shortages, most suffering from kidney problems.
Yet Wasses – while acknowledging a growth in illnesses related to the clean water shortages in Egypt – questions the figure.
“Up to now there has been no scientific research done on this, so I don’t know where this number could have come from, she said
“There was a decrease in the late 1980s, but an increase in problems like parasitic illnesses, cancer, and kidney problems have been detected more recently.