Dozens of people blocked the Ring Road on Monday to protest ongoing water cuts in the Giza neighborhood of Faisal, outraged by a water shortage that has lasted for several months.
Water cuts have plagued several regions in Egypt this year, prompting protests in Daqahlia, Port Said, Alexandria and Assiut, along with a number of districts in the greater Cairo area. In most cases, the cuts have not been adequately resolved.
Police forces tried to persuade the protesters to get off the road, according to media reports, but to no avail. Personal accounts and photos circulating on social network sites showed that the police then fired tear gas to disperse the protest and restore the flow of traffic.
But breaking up the protest won’t solve the problem, says Ahmed Tareq, who resides on Faisal Street. He asserts that though the water cuts temporarily stopped for several days in late July, they then came back even worse than before — and municipal authorities have yet to propose a clear solution.
Sherif Bahloul lives in the Meshaal neighborhood situated between Faisal and Haram Streets. He recounts a similar story, claiming that his neighborhood has been afflicted with daily water cuts — sometimes lasting up to a whole day at a time — since Ramadan began on June 18.
“They typically extend throughout normal waking hours,” Bahloul says. “Maybe from around 10 in the morning until 8 or 9 at night.”
The water supply might be restored for an hour or so on odd days of the week, he continues, usually in the afternoon or early evening.
According to Brigadier General Mohie Serafy, the spokesperson for the Holding Company for Water and Waste Water, the problem lies with the Nile River’s low water levels, along with increased turbidity and floating sediments in its waters. This means it takes longer to filter the water — it has to go through three filtration cycles per day, instead of one — contributing to a 40 percent decrease in water production. That’s what prompted water cuts to densely populated areas in Giza, he explains.
In recent years, municipal authorities began work on several new water plants to meet growing demand, Serafy adds. But construction halted due to the unrest that followed the January 25 uprising, and the installation work was only recent completed.
In mid-July, engineer Mamdouh Raslan, chairman of the Holding Company for Water and Waste Water, claimed that “by August 30, the connection and completion of these plants will ensure that this new network of water supply will resolve the crisis affecting these areas, and will also resolve the problem of water rationing in these neighborhoods.”
Similar pledges were made by Giza Governor Khaled Zakareya al-Adly in mid-August. According to the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, the governor directed Giza Water Company authorities to use this new network of water plants — which stretch out to 6th of October City — to supply water to the neighborhoods between Faisal and Haram Streets before the beginning of September.
But by the time September came, those promises did not materialize, and residents say their formal complaints are being ignored.
Bahloul says that he filed several complaints to water company officials, and each time they promised to look into the cuts and send people to fix the problem. No action was ever taken, he claims.
Area residents have taken to filling up large containers of water to use during the cuts, while some have installed pumps to extract and use ground water, and others still have installed water tanks to fill up during the few hours that the water supply resumes, according to Bahloul and Tareq.
Both men say they haven’t seen any kind of maintenance work in their neighborhoods, nor have they heard of work on water utility networks anywhere in the district.
And now, officials have backtracked on their earlier pledges. In an interview with a local talk show on September 2, Serafy projected that supply would resume by the beginning of October. A week after that, the Giza governor concurred that things would be back to normal within the course of a month.
While speaking with Mada Masr, Serafy says he expects the issue to be resolved in the near future, but refrains from specifying a particular date. He adds that he’s currently waiting to complete construction on the new water plant in 6th of October City and connect it to Giza’s water network.