As the inauguration of the New Suez Canal approaches, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi assigned the government a new irrigation project on Tuesday. According to a statement by Irrigation Minister Hossam Moghazi, Sisi has demanded a timetable for the completion of the Al-Salam Canal, a project to transport water to the Sinai Peninsula left over from former President Hosni Mubarak’s admistration.
The minister added that the completion of the project includes the construction of agricultural and industrial facilities east of the Suez Canal, to be carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.
Moghazi noted that a system will be implemented that encourages the growth of environmentally friendly crops which require less water, in addition to crops that can be exported.
The project was originally launched in 1997, but progress slowed in 2006 and came to a complete standstill in 2010. The first stage of the project, which included digging a 78 kilometer canal from Damietta to the Suez Canal, was supposed to provide water for 220,000 feddans between Damietta, Daqahliya, Sharqiya, Ismailia and Port Said. According to reports, work on the project stopped during the third stage, which required substantial funding to transport water to central Sinai.
According to construction expert and former Housing Minister Hasaballah al-Kafrawy, the project was not completed because of the extreme saltiness of the terrain, which needed at least five years of desalination. Neimat Nour Eddin, a professor at Ain Shams University’s Faculty of Agriculture, agrees that the canal needs to be redirected because of the salinity of the land and the areas surrounding it.
The third stage was meant to include the Seer and Qawareer areas in central Sinai, where some the most fertile land is located.
In another statement in April, Moghazi stated that 89 percent of the canal’s construction work has been completed, and that the ministry is creating an irrigation system underneath the Suez Canal to provide water for 100,000 feddans. The minister added that LE170 million has been spent on this new system.