Lining canals … Beyond the felling of trees in Egypt

Does the new project benefit them? (Khaled Desouky / France Press)

Lining canals in Egypt is a national project that will prevent water waste and enhance agricultural irrigation. As for those in charge of it, it aims to serve Egyptian farmers. However, there are voices denouncing the illegal logging operations in this context.

Farmers and activists in the field of environmental protection have criticized the project of lining Egyptian canals, which led to the cutting of thousands of trees on the edges of canals in several Egyptian governorates. Bahaa Al-Attar, head of the farmers ’union in the northern Buhaira Governorate, says that“ despite the advantages of the canals lining project, there are defects, most notably the cutting of trees on its edges, especially since there are trees that are more than 50 years old and others that have grown before we were born. As a barrier for cars on the roads so that they do not fall into the canals when accidents happen, in addition to giving an aesthetic view of the canals. This unfair cutting leads to the decline of green spaces. Al-Attar added, “When we asked the irrigation directorate in the governorate about this, they replied that it was the instructions of the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation … so they complain.” He added that “the dredgers (mechanisms) of the Ministry of Irrigation cut more than 300 trees of fruit trees, jasmine, facsimile, etc., along both ends of the Palm Canal, explaining that the ministry explained that the trees impede the purification process and lead to the narrowing of the private course.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi had assigned the government to the necessity of completing the project of lining canals and banks within two years. In the context, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Eng. Mohamed El Sebaei, says that the project comes within the framework of the ministry’s strategic plan 2037, pointing out that the plan extends over 20 years. He adds that the project targets tired canals with small sectors that are three or four meters wide, pointing to the lining of nearly 20,000 kilometers as soon as possible. He explained that the Egyptian state is working on all axes to rationalize the process of water consumption, and that this would positively affect the Egyptian economy.

For his part, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Irrigation in Buhaira Governorate, Engineer Amer Shukry, says that he is implementing the state’s directives in cooperation with all relevant agencies to rationalize water consumption, stressing that the lining of canals is done by pouring concrete slabs on the walls of the canals and the bottom, instead of the existing silt, because it is filled With holes for water to seep through. Shukry adds that, during the implementation of these lining operations, they remove trees that impede the purification and consume water, indicating that they have so far completed the development and lining work of the Nakhla and Al-Ashrafiya canal, starting from the village of Al-Tusili and ending with the village of Abdullah Shaban, with a length of 2750 meters at a total cost of 10 million Egyptian pounds (about $ 640,000). The aim is to facilitate access to water for irrigation of agricultural lands in the region.

In the governorate of Qena, southern Egypt, the head of the Farmers’ Syndicate, Madani Al-Zoghbi, complains about the removal of trees, which he described as unfair, against thousands of people growing on the edges of canals. He says that the union has received many complaints from farmers about their damage from the logging operations carried out by the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, revealing that the matter not only includes farmers ’trees, but also others planted by some local units. He added that logging operations affected 796 canals, which are covered by the lining project.

In the same context, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Irrigation in the Governorate of Qena, Sabri Mukhtar, says that the Irrigation Directorate implements the Ministry’s directives and the law to remove any trees that impede the operations of clearing drains, as they would impede the flow of irrigation water to agricultural lands until the end of any canal and drain. Mukhtar added that the campaign to remove trees came after many farmers’ complaints about the lack of irrigation water reaching them through drains and canals, so we had to move every time that the clearance operations did not play its role to solve the problem. He continues that many canals branch out from which drains are connected, and the water is connected to it with all its energy after logging and purification, thus enabling farmers to irrigate. Mukhtar pointed out that citizens who object to the removal decisions and the clearance mechanisms will be subject to legal accountability and financial fines, explaining that the directorate has been able to clear dozens of canals and drains, including the Al-Ghalassi canal, which irrigates 26,000 feddans with a length of approximately 34 kilometers, and dozens of drains and canals in the governorate centers. He stressed that the Directorate will not stand idly by in front of any encroachment on the banks and canals.

As for the head of the Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security Committee in the House of Representatives, Hisham Al-Hosari, he stresses that the water management file is one of the most important files at present in light of the great challenges facing the country in relation to water shortage, especially the issue of the Ethiopian dam, in addition to issues of concern to citizens regarding the canals in Inside residential blocks. And he stresses the importance of developing the irrigation system, replacing and rehabilitating drainage and irrigation stations, as well as educating citizens to conserve water, pointing out that the national project for lining canals is one of the projects that will have a role in developing the irrigation system and reducing water consumption. Regarding the illegal cutting of trees during the implementation of the project of lining canals, Al Hosary says that these trees consume a lot of water and impede the arrival of that water to the ends of the canals.

In a related context, Ahmed Montaser, an activist in the field of environmental protection, says that Environment Law No. 4 of 1994, amended by Law No. 9 of 2009, stipulates that anyone who trespasses on trees be punished by imprisonment and a fine of no less than 5,000 Egyptian pounds (about 320 Egyptian pounds). One US dollar) and not more than 50,000 Egyptian pounds (about 3200 dollars), with the confiscation of the tools and equipment used in committing the violation. Article 367 of the Penal Code also stipulates the punishment of imprisonment with labor for anyone who cuts or destroys an un-harvested plant or tree planted or planted or other plants, and whoever destroys a sown field or broadcasts in a field weed or harmful plants, and everyone who uproots a tree Or more or any other plant or cut from it or peel it to kill it, and whoever destroys a graft in a tree. Consequently, he affirms that those who carry out cutting these trees under the pretext of lining and clearing canals must be prosecuted, in accordance with the Egyptian Environmental Law and the Egyptian Penal Code.

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