Egypt’s water crisis – how a revolution changed nothing

Before the 2011 Revolution Egypt was dotted with gated communities that were diverting a lot of its water. By contrast, the informal settlements, which represent about 60 percent of Cairo’s residents, struggled to find water. During the revolution itself little mention was made of the fact the country was in a water crisis or how the west helped the Mubarak regime privatize the water through World Bank and IMF programs. As was the case in South Africa, this has caused even more water inequity. So the revolution was as much about the water crisis even though the media was ignoring this.

After the revolution many government officials and land developers had to answer to their corrupt privatization deals. The big question was whether the land and water that had been used for these projects would be returned to the government along with any new projects. The reversals made foreign investors nervous causing the economy to head towards collapse. As a result a lot of the contracts ended up being renegotiated by the new leader Morsi to get the investors back.

But in spite of all this Morsi was removed from office in 2013. The main reason being that he was going to seize the assets of the military. In fact, the military was in charge of the country all along and were only trying to remodel the old Mubarak regime, not replace it. The revolution itself provided new opportunities for corruption. The wealthy left the country with the money from the privatization deals while the military took what was left. Morsi’s interim government really just gave them the time to do this.

The situation in Egypt today is that with the military and the foreign investors there is little hope of reforming the water inequity problem. Egypt is also dependent on the River Nile, but because of the dams, the land has become salinized and desertified which has forced the country to import much of its food. So the water riots are now accompanied by the bread riots. Still the gated suburbs carry on!


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