Former minister criticizes presidential hopefuls for not attending water summit

A former water resources minister criticized Egyptian presidential candidates Monday for not attending a conference on African water resources that is set to address water issues and Egypt’s relations with Nile Basin states.

Africa Water Week, organized by the Ministerial Council of African Water Ministers, began Monday and was attended by the largest number of African ministers ever.

“Unfortunately, the platforms of the majority of presidential candidates are devoid of the water issue, despite its significance and importance for Egypt’s future in the coming years,” said former Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Mahmoud Abu Zeid.

In statements to the press on the sidelines of the conference, Abu Zeid described the water as being the “engine” needed by Egyptian politics, and that Egyptian-African cooperation is a “strategic goal for building Egypt during the coming decades.”

“Egyptian presidential candidates must make a pledge that the water issue will be at the top of their interests during their reigns,” he said.

A number of Nile Basin country water ministers opted out of the Africa Water Week meetings to avoid a possible conflict with Egypt.

Countries that sent their ministers to the event included the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, South Sudan and Sudan, while Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Eritrea only sent their ambassadors in Cairo, rather than their ministers.

The conference aims at discussing the future of water and wastewater in Africa, and the impact of climate change on water resources, as well as ways to face those challenges.

Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, 15 water ministers, 54 deputy ministers and 400 international water and environment experts attended the conference Monday.

During the four days of meetings, the officials will tackle the private sector’s role in water and wastewater project investment, and how to achieve the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal to cut the number of those deprived of water and wastewater in half by 2015.

On the sidelines of the conference, Egypt will be elected president of the ministerial council for African water ministers for two years. Sources informed about the move explained this to Al-Masry Al-Youm as a way to restore Egypt’s role, which they said has been missed in the continent for a long time.

The meetings will also focus on challenges facing African governments in managing water resources, food, energy and food security, and in financing projects and building national capacities to face water challenges.

Hesham Mohamed Qandil, Egypt’s irrigation and water resources minister, said ahead of the meetings that they aim toward achieving more cooperation, exchanging experiences among African countries and managing water resources.

Negative impacts of climate change on African water resources will be discussed as one of the main challenges, Qandil added.

The Sudanese water resources minister, Saif-Eddin Hamad Abdulla, said the meetings will work on setting ways to achieve joint projects among the African countries to increase water supply to areas deprived of it, coverage of wastewater projects and an improvement in people’s health conditions.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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