Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1206, (17-23 July 2014)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1206, (17-23 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

The calamity of Qoursaya

Sewage water is continuing to flood the Qoursaya Island in the middle of the Nile, writes Mai Samih

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The Island of Qoursaya sits in the middle of the Nile in the governorate of Giza. In 2007, the island, 500 feddans in area, was the subject of a feud between the residents and the government, until the former won a court ruling from the Supreme Administrative Court in February 2010 that stated their right to live on the island despite government efforts to remove them. Another court order followed in August 2013.

 The island is partly owned by the Pharaonic Village, an exhibition centre that presents life in Ancient Egypt through actors and artefacts. Today, the inhabitants of the island are suffering from problems of sewage water because there is no suitable sanitary drainage system on the island.

Medhat Seif, a resident of the island who has been living there since 1960, complained of the situation on the island. “We have a problem with sewage water that is flooding our houses. We used to have uncultivated land that was ideal for waste, but now people have planted the land and there is nowhere for waste water to drain when the underground sanitary containers are full. The result is that sewage floods the island and goes into the Nile as well.”

“The Pharaonic Village administration wanted to help us build a drainage system, but the plans were interrupted by the authorities at the water company. We asked the local authorities to come to see the problem for themselves, and they sent a committee that decided we needed a proper drainage system for the entire island. However, since then nothing has been done. We need this drainage system as the waste water is making life impossible and people are drinking contaminated water too,” Seif said.

“We need to feel that we are Egyptian citizens. There are more than 5,000 human beings living on the island who need help. We would like to see a hospital and nursery built on the island, but for the time being the priority is the drainage system. We need the government’s authorisation before any work can begin,” commented Rabee, another resident.

Another resident, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said that “I’m a grandmother and live with 85 members of my family – my children’s families and my grandchildren’s families. I’ve been living here for 70 years, and whenever the island is flooded with sewage I have to leave. I’m an old woman now and am unable to cope with this much longer. I have nowhere else to go. We need a solution to this problem.”

Magdy Al-Zayyat, manager of the Pharaonic Village, explained that “Abdel-Salam Ragab, the chairman of the Pharaonic Village, has long been interested in providing social services for people living around the Village, and he has provided rubbish containers for the residents’ rubbish. But more recently we have discovered the problem of sewage water that floods the houses when the River level is high, or just goes straight into the River when it is low.”

“The residents do not have a proper sanitary system. Instead, each house has its own septic tank. The problem is that these cannot be regularly emptied because of the difficulty of access to the island,” Al-Zayyat said. The nearest water station was 300 metres away, meaning that there was also a danger that drinking water could be polluted with sewage, he added.

“For this reason, we have been helping the residents to build a proper sanitary system linked to the Al-Bahr Al-Azam sanitary station. On 5 April, we submitted the plans to the Giza governorate, and on 16 April we met the governor, Ali Abdel-Rahman, who consented to the project. When we had not received a reply from the Holding Company for Water and Waste Water on 20 April we asked the governor to write formally for an investigation to be made. A committee came and approved of the project, asking us to coordinate with the water company and pay 10 per cent of the total cost of the project.”

“Since then, we have been told we need permission from the ministry of irrigation and the supervision of a consultant engineer. All of this has added to the delay, and as a result we sent petitions to the prime minister and the ministry of housing in June. However, we still have not received replies,” Al-Zayyat said.

A source from the Holding Company for Water and Waste Water gave the company’s side of the story. “We want to serve everyone and do not want to put barriers in other people’s way, but we are governed by laws and regulations and the 10 per cent assessed to the Pharaonic Village in supervision fees is what the law says in cases of this sort. We would prefer a consultant engineer to supervise the project as it is in a sensitive area right next to the Nile. The ministry of irrigation needs to approve the project as the pipes will cross the River, and we need ministry approval for the island’s sanitary system to be joined with that of the mainland.”

Whatever the sources of the delay, the problem is now an urgent one for residents of the island. “We want the government to let the people who want to help us build us a new drainage system. They are already volunteering to help us. All the government has to do is to let them help us,” Seif commented.

“The project is a social service offered by Pharaonic Village chairman Abdel-Salam Ragab. We can see that the water of the River Nile, our drinking water, is being polluted by sewage, and we want to act,” Al-Zayyat concluded.

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