Thursday,23 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1271, (19-25 November 2015)
Thursday,23 November, 2017
Issue 1271, (19-25 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

In the wake of the floods

After heavy rainstorms and floods killed at least 20 people in Alexandria and Beheira, a wide-ranging investigation is being carried out, reports Ameera Fouad

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Al-Ahram Weekly

In a surprise visit to devastated areas in Alexandria and Beheira, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi last week addressed the failure of drainage systems that led to the flooding, the complete paralysis of the two cities and the death of dozens of people.

Al-Sisi ordered that LE1 billion from the fund Tahya Masr (Long Live Egypt) be used to upgrade all drainage and sewage systems in the cities.

The president also sent “heart-felt apologies” to farmers and villagers who lost their entire crops after their agricultural lands were damaged or destroyed by sewage water that ruined the crops and the soil.

He also ordered a wide-scale civil investigation to determine who is responsible for the failure to upgrade the sewage system. Al-Sisi blamed much of the damage to years of neglect and the squandering of public funds.

Meanwhile, the Public Fund Prosecution in Alexandria is currently investigating a case of corruption connected to officials at the sewage authority in the coastal city.

According to a new report, the Public Funds Prosecution is investigating the reported squandering of LE30 million by the sewage system sector in Alexandria. The money was spent on new pumps that were installed in 2013, but which did not meet the required specifications.

The report revealed that in 2013, officials responsible for the sewage system were required to carry out an upgrade. Funds set at LE30 million were disbursed to replace old pumps with new ones, to be installed west of Alexandria’s sewage stations. The new pumps did not meet the standard criteria.

In an attempt to improve the country’s sewage system in the wake of the flooding, Minister of Housing, Utilities and Urban Development Mustafa Madbouli has allocated LE29 billion for 148 such projects that are to begin operation within two and half years.

In a press statement on Sunday, Madbouli said most of the money will go to revamping the entire network of the sewage system across the country, and an amount will be dedicated to water pipelines in areas that have severe water cuts.

Madbouli also confirmed that the upgrade of the Alexandrian sewage system will be partially finished within ten days in a bid to prevent more casualties and floods before the harsh winter season sets in. As for the ministry’s long-term plan, the city’s entire network will be upgraded within one year at most.

On the major losses of farmers and villagers, the chief executive of the Tahya Masr fund, Mohamed Ashmawi, said it would start compensating farmers for the loss of more than 150 feddans in Beheira and 115 feddans in Alexandria. A total of LE2,000 will be paid for each feddan lost. The money will be disbursed by the National Bank of Egypt.

As Alexandria’s flooding made headlines in the news, the Mediterranean city is ailing not only from years of neglect but also from wild-cat buildings that has marred the city’s identity and made a mockery of city planning. Statistics show that more than 65,000 illegal buildings have been constructed in less than four years.

Al-Sisi has given orders that all illegal buildings constructed on sewage system filters, pumps, channels and passages be demolished. City officials, with the support of the northern military forces, will carry out demolitions in Al-Nasf Al-Hather. They have already started knocking down illegal buildings in Al-Matar district, especially those which block sewage system stations.

Two weeks ago, Egypt’s northern coastal cities were severely hit by heavy storms that flooded streets, neighbourhoods and many villages. Floods caused power outages in some districts and destroyed thousands of feddans of agricultural land, leading to the major loss in crops for farmers and villagers. As many as seven people died in Alexandria and 14 in Beheira.

For the citizens of Alexandria, lashing rains and heavy winter storms are not surprising. Their coastal city is well known for its rainfall and thunderstorms as winter approaches.

But it was not so much the dreadful weather as the city’s poor infrastructure and decrepit sewage system that caused the loss of life and property.

 

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