The problem of wells in the New Valley contradicts the obligations of the UPR
Maat: Amending the Minister of Irrigation Decision No. 21 of 2015 and creating a regulatory mechanism for drilling surface wells, urgent solutions are required
In light of the results of the first universal periodic review convoy conducted by the Maat Foundation for Peace, Development and Human Rights for the New Valley Governorate last May, the Foundation monitored the suffering of New Valley farmers from a problem related to the availability of underground wells on which the governorate depends mainly for agriculture and drinking operations as well.
According to the information available to Maat Foundation, and based on discussions with a large number of farmers and officials in the governorate, the problem of wells is summarized in the following points:
1- The insufficiency of the current deep and shallow wells compared to the agricultural needs and household uses of the residents of the New Valley (115 thousand people).
2- The Minister of Irrigation Decision No. 21 was issued on August 18, 2015 Permanently prohibiting the construction of any replacement wells for the government wells currently established, and the prohibition of constructing any substitute wells outside the control and stopping all forms of support provided by the Ministry to these wells.
3- The insufficient time allocated by the state for farmers to use the existing deep wells owned by the Ministry of Irrigation, which is estimated at 5 hours per day instead of 12-14 hours per day as was prevalent before, which is a very short period, especially for the vast lands.
4- Farmers resort to digging surface wells that exceed 70 meters deep, which is a depth that does not allow access to water suitable for drinking or irrigation because it contains high levels of salts and oxides.
5- Suffering in obtaining permits to dig these surface wells due to the failure of those responsible to grant the necessary permits to dig wells and obtain the electricity needed to operate them, which drives farmers to dig wells without a license and to use electricity illegally, which results in paying bills that cost thousands of pounds, which is beyond the capacity of These farmers. Note that the cost of digging one well ranges between 100-300 thousand pounds. Farmers also face a constant threat of demolishing unlicensed wells.
All these problems together lead to the creation of obstacles for farmers and citizens of the New Valley to access their rights to drinking water and to water needed for agriculture as an economic activity and their main source of livelihood, which contradicts a number of recommendations accepted by the Egyptian state during the second session of the UPR in March 2015, the most important of which were:
1- Recommendation No. 166-273, submitted by the Maldives and accepted by the Egyptian state, states: “Take practical measures to ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation services for all, especially for people in rural areas”;
2- Recommendation No. 166-268, submitted by the Kingdom of Bhutan and accepted by the Egyptian state, states: “To continue its efforts aimed at reducing poverty, and in particular, to focus more on programs to combat poverty in rural areas”;
3- Recommendation No. 166-271, submitted by the Republic of Mali and accepted by the Egyptian state, states: “Continuing and strengthening measures to improve the living conditions of its population”.
In light of this, the Maat Foundation appeals to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Irrigation to reconsider the Minister of Irrigation Decision No. 21 of 2015 and the Ministry's return to its supportive role in digging deep wells and increasing the hours allocated for farmers to benefit from them while supporting farmers ’transformation into more efficient systems. The Foundation also appeals to ministries Irrigation, farmers and electricity by setting up an appropriate regulatory mechanism that allows farmers to legitimately drill surface wells, obtain the necessary licenses, and deliver electricity to wells at a cost appropriate to farmers ’conditions.