North Sinai breaks ground on Middle East's largest seawater desalination plant

By Mohammed Mahmoud in Cairo

North Sinai Governor Maj. Gen. Mohammed Abdul Fadheel Shosha inspects the water desalination plant in Abi Saql, North Sinai, on April 7th. [Al-Mashareq]

North Sinai Governor Maj. Gen. Mohammed Abdul Fadheel Shosha inspects the water desalination plant in Abi Saql, North Sinai, on April 7th. [Al-Mashareq]

Construction work has started on the largest seawater desalination plant in Africa and the Middle East, North Sinai Governor Maj. Gen. Mohammed Abdul Fadheel Shosha announced Tuesday (April 7th).

The capacity of the first phase will be 100,000 cubic metres per day, which will be increased to 300,000 cubic metres daily in the second phase.

The cost of constructing the new plant is $97 million.

The drinking water sector in the province has been witnessing an unprecedented production boom due to the creation of a seawater desalination system and an increase of the province's Nile water share, Shosha said.

"This will help put an end to the rotation system in the distribution of water among neighbourhoods, areas and population centres," he said.

The new plant, located in the Kilo 17 area west of the provincial capital of al-Arish, will cover the needs of al-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah and Central Sinai.

The plant water salinity is less than 500 mg/litre, comparable to purified water.

Four desalination plants in al-Arish were scheduled to be inaugurated on April 25th, but the inauguration was postponed because of precautions taken by the state against the coronavirus pandemic. The four plants will add 25,000 cubic metres of water per day into the city's water supply network.

"These projects are part of the state's comprehensive strategy for the development of North Sinai," Shosha said, noting that the development of the drinking water sector aims to provide drinking water to residents on a continuous basis and to create jobs for local residents.

For decades, North Sinai has not had sufficient desalinated water, and no seawater desalination system has existed although al-Arish is situated on the Mediterranean Sea.

Today, however, the comprehensive strategy for the development of Sinai, which the government approved less than five years ago, includes projects to develop infrastructure and investment opportunities to create jobs.

"The terrorist groups' targeting of North Sinai has not undermined the will of its people to complete the reconstruction and development projects which will serve as the main barrier and a strong weapon to uproot terrorism from Sinai," Shosha said.

Overcoming obstacles to development

Egypt has faced numerous difficulties in realising development projects, including terrorism and extremism, said Amr Darwish, a local development expert and member of the Co-ordination Committee of Party's Youth Leaders and Politicians.

"Nonetheless, the Egyptian state was able to [adopt] an integrated strategy for the development of Sinai while combating terrorism under the slogan 'One hand builds, One hand carries weapons,'" he told Al-Mashareq.

"This was out of the political leadership's belief in the importance of development and reconstruction through an integrated, clear development plan," Darwish said.

The new desalination plant "is an example of the state's policy in moving with the same pace on all tracks, including development, military and security operations against terrorist groups, education, and reform of religious discourse", he said.

Sinai is a very important area that has for decades suffered from neglect because it is sparsely populated, he said.

"However, due to Egypt's insistence on developing the peninsula and cleansing it of terrorism, it has drawn up clear development plans for protecting it against any dangers, thwarting the despicable terrorist operations, reconstructing it and creating jobs for thousands of young people there," Darwish said.

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