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Cablegate: Egypt: Codel Johnson Discusses Water with Minister of Water

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #0045 0131131
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131131Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7873
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0315
RUEHAE/AMEMBASSY ASMARA 0145
RUEHJB/AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA 0004
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 0087
RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0078
RUEHLGB/AMEMBASSY KIGALI 0049
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 1167
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 0156
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0357

UNCLAS CAIRO 000045

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA
USAID FOR ANA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON SENV EWWT EAGR EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT: CODEL JOHNSON DISCUSSES WATER WITH MINISTER OF WATER
RESOURCES ABU ZEID

Sensitive but unclassified, not for Internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mahmoud Abu Zeid
briefed the DCM and a CODEL led by Representative Eddie Bernice
Johnson (D-TX) on January 6 on the challenges Egypt faces regarding
water and its cooperation with the other nine Nile Basin states.
The CODEL consisted of Representative Johnson, Representative John
Boozman (R-AR), Representative Corrine Brown (D-FL), Representative
Jerry Costello (D-IL), Representative John Duncan (R-TN),
Representative Mary Fallin (R-OK), Representative Tim Holden (D-PA),
Representative Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI), Representative Laura
Richardson (D-CA), and Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).

2. (SBU) Abu Zeid said that improving Egypt's irrigation and
reclamation systems are the most urgent needs to ensure that Egypt's
growing population will have enough clean water for the foreseeable
future. According to Abu Zeid, although 95 percent of Egyptians
have fresh water, sanitation and recycling drainage water is a
challenge. Only 60 percent of drainage water is treated in Cairo
and Alexandria, with only four percent treated outside the main
cities. Regulating usage of increasingly scarce water resources is
also a problem; Abu Zeid cited the example of rice and sugarcane
farmers, who use more water than the government mandates because of
the high export price of their products. Asked about problems with
pesticides and industrial run-off, Abu Zeid acknowledged this as a
problem but noted that Egypt is focusing on basic water sanitation,
currently a greater concern.

3. (SBU) To deal with water resource issues internally, Abu Zeid
said that President Mubarak announced an LE 20 million (USD 3.7
million) project to develop water resources in the villages as part
of his election platform. As this is only a small part of Egypt's
needs, Abu Zeid said that the GOE still relies heavily on foreign
donors. He thanked the CODEL for USAID's water infrastructure and
policy assistance over the years, noting that all of his ministry's
top experts were trained under USAID programs. Abu Zeid noted that
in recent years USAID has moved away from infrastructure assistance
and focused on policy support, a decision which Abu Zeid bemoaned -
"we need both." Abu Zeid also lobbied for USAID to support
"horizontal" projects to expand water resources to new satellite
cities in the desert outside Cairo.

4. (SBU) Regarding Egypt's relations with the other nine Nile Basin
countries, Abu Zeid said that no one agreement on sharing water
resources among the ten countries yet exists, and that Egypt has
only one bilateral agreement (with Sudan) on the issue. However,
the Nile Basin Initiative, proposed by Egypt in 1994 and signed in
1999, is "98 percent complete" and will provide a framework for the
countries to examine proposed water resource projects to ensure that
they provide the maximum benefit for each country. A commission is
still working out the exact details of this framework, he said. Abu
Zeid was confident that many beneficial projects are possible, as
the Nile Basin countries use only five percent of the water that
nature provides every year, but the infrastructure to exploit the
water does not yet exist.

5. (U) CODEL Johnson did not clear this message. RICCIARDONE

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