The sound of a car screeching to a halt alarmed citizens, who feared an accident had happened. But surprise soon turned into a look full of pity when they saw a woman in her forties, dragging her feet and holding a leaking bucket full to the brim with water. She was followed by one boy and two little girls, each carrying as many jerrycans and bottles as they could handle. All were departing a gasoline station where water was still abundant, and crossed the road on their way back home, where water dried up three days ago.
Reaching the other side of the street, Om Ahmed turned her face back to her children to make sure they had crossed the street safely. She took the bucket off her head, and started to tell us about her dilemma. “ We have been out of water for three days, and the weather is unendurable. The hot weather, combined with fasting, has exhausted the kids who, on the first day of Ramadan, went to their aunt’s house to take a bath, while I accompanied my husband in his search for water–but to no avail. With the water cut continuing for several days, we learned that one gasoline station had its water running. That made our daily mission to transport the biggest quantity possible to our home. We do not know the reason behind this problem or the time it will be solved,” said Om Ahmed.
This water problem is a problem mainly along al-Tesseen street, between the Fifth District and the First District of New Cairo. But ways of dealing with the problem vary, according to the nature of the inhabitants. For instance, there is the al-Banafseg region, known for its luxurious villas, the owners of which have departed due to the water shortage, moving back to their second residences. Some residents, instead, have been relying on their neighbors to bring water using their cars.
“The villa’s owners could not stand to stay, especially with the water supply being delayed for more than two days. The aged couple decided to move to their son’s flat in Heliopolis until the dysfunctioned water pipe–which had caused the problem–is fixed,” said Abdel Hamid Shaaban, a guard for one of the villas at al-Banafseg.
Standing in front of the door to her house with a number of empty jerrycans and bottles, Hala Anwar was waiting for her husband, who was on his way back from work. “My husband is used to heading to Nasr City to bring us water. We have long been waiting for local council vehicles to do that job, but it turned out that these cars have been unloading their cargo somewhere else. Does a rupture in a water pipe mean sentencing inhabitants to death, instead of solving the problem immediately?” she asked.
Ahmed Hafez sees himself as the luckiest of all, because water has not been cut completely from his home, but is instead slowly trickling. This has enabled him to help his neighbors by leaving his garden faucet open for them to fill up their jerrycans.
ِAnother aspect of the problem lies in the means residents of highly-populated streets have to rely on to obtain their water supply. At Mehwar 77 Mubarak, a district known for its large number of houses with numerous families, one resident stood with a bottle in his hand. “I heard that the water vehicle came to a nearby street, so I got ready for the battle. We are poor people and do not possess cars to use for transporting water from faraway areas. The nearest spot for us to get water from is Nasr City. Though the city’s authority tries to give a hand through the supply cars it provides, these cars have no time schedule. Sometimes they arrive at 3 or 4 AM, and we have to wait,” he said.
A similar problem is seen in al-Salam Street in the Fifth District. Looking up, one can see residents on their balconies waiting for the vehicles. Asked about the water conundrum, they said it takes place every now and then, but stressed that this was the first time it has lasted for three days. “I transport water from my brother’s residence in the Tenth District on a daily basis. When the traffic gets better, he takes us with him to spare us the drought. But there are other families who have no choice but to await the cars that usually arrive after downloading in neighboring regions.”
Other citizens opted for garden faucets which keep flowing, though these can be used only for irrigation purposes. But given the huge number of affected families, they have become indispensable.
In one of the gardens, Sayyed Abdallah went in search of the watering hose, which was gushing water nonstop. He held it up as if he had found a treasure. “I know this water is irrigation and not potable, but we use it for washing our clothes and even for bathing. As for drinking, we get the water from the gasoline station.”
The problem extends to the city of al-Rehab, but to a smaller extent, for the water cuts have impacted only a number of regions. For instance, citizens in the Third District did not suffer, or only just for one day, after which water flowed once more. The problem persisted however in the First District and the Second District.
Mossad Qandil, a resident of the Third District, said: “This is the first time we have suffered a water shortage for more than one day. We haven't seen a single drop of water since Friday. We contacted the water complaints services at the city council, but they kept assuring us that the problem would be solved soon. Yet, nothing has changed. It wasn't until yesterday night that a few drops of water started to trickle. We are not sure whether this is a good sign or just a painkiller to prevent the residents from filing complaints against the officials who have failed to fix the ruptured water pipe."
Translated from the Arabic Edition.