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Water privatisation, Egypt


In 2004 and 2005, then dictator Hosni Mubarak issued decrees which essentially privatised the supply of water. This was in line with a World Bank approach that saw privatisation as a means to efficiency and access to loans. Under the decree, authorities in 14 of Egypts 28 governorates were transformed into holding companies and the focus shifted to profit and cost recovery. The price of water increased and citizen protests took place in subsequent years. From the second half of 2007 till January 2008, Egypt witnessed about 40 protests about the absence of basic rights connected to drinking water, according to one estimate. Some commentators have said that the January 2011 revolution was a Revolution of the Thirsty. The impact of the increase in costs to the poor was hard felt for two reasons: Egypt had dropped below the globally recognized water poverty line of 1,000 cubic meters per person per year, down to 700 cubic meters per person.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Water privatisation, Egypt
State or province:Cairo Governorate
Location of conflict:Applies to all 27 governorates of Egypt
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Water access rights and entitlements
Specific commodities:Water
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Since 2005, Egypt has been classified as a water scarce country as it has less than 1000 cubic metres of fresh water per year per capita[3]. But the $1.35 billion water sector is expected to grow to $2.37 billion in 2015[4]. Evidence points to growing disparity in water access. The 2006 national social survey, for example, as quoted by one writer, suggested that among the poorest 20% of Egyptians, 62% of them only had tap water available to them outside of their homes and just over 30% had no easy access to water at all. For the wealthiest 20%, over 98% of them had water available to them inside their homes[5].

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Level of Investment:490000000
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:2005
Company names or state enterprises:Drinking Water and Sanitary Drainage Holding Company from Egypt
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation Facilities, Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Ministry of Health and Population, Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, Egyptian Water Regulatory Agency
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
European Union (EU)
US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Egyptian association for collective rights, Right to Water Forum in the Arab Region-Egypt
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Activists are researching privatization trends subsequent to the 2011 revolution and campaigning around the right to drinking water and irrigation water.
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage)
Health ImpactsVisible: Infectious diseases, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Potential: Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
New legislation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Development of alternatives:Since 2011, the World Bank has linked new loans to the need for government reforms - and this includes privatisaion. However, civil society organisations have instead demanded a people-led process of development. This would see water access as a basic right and encourage community ownership[5].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:At this stage, there have been no significant policy changes subsequent to the 2011 revolution.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Law No. 12/1984

Law No. 213/1994

and private sector irrigation and drainage)

(Both of these define the use and management of public

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[2] IRIN (2010). Growing protests over water shortages. Available at: Accessed 16 January 2013.
[click to view]

[3] Wikipedia (2012). Water supply and sanitation in Egypt. Available at: Accessed 13 January 2013.
[click to view]

[4] Frost and Sullivan Research Service (2011). Assessment of Water and Wastewater Sector in Egypt. Available at: Accessed 16 January 2013.
[click to view]

[5] (2012). If a man has no water, he dies. Available at: Accessed 15 January 2013.
[click to view]

Accessed 10 January 2013.

[1] Abdel Mawla Ismail (2009). Drinking Water Protests in Egypt and the Role of Civil Society. Available at:
[click to view]

[6] Personal communication dated 17 January 2012.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Egypt Independent (2012). Residents close Giza Governorate headquarters to protest water shortage. Available at:
[click to view]

Ibrahim, Ekram (2012). Egypts poor suffer most from ongoing water crisis. Available at:
[click to view]

Khalil, Wael (2011) Egypts IMF-backed revolution? No thanks. Available at: Accessed 14 January 2013.
[click to view]

McGrath, Cam. (2010). Poor Thirst as Nile Taps Run Dry. Available at:
[click to view]

[click to view]

Accessed 14 January 2013.

AbdelRazzak, Mehsen (2012). Protestors demand, water, security in Egypts rural areas. Available at:
[click to view]

Shalaby, Ethar (2012). Saft El Laban residents complain of polluted potable water. Available at:
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

AhramOnline (2012). Activists Occupy Giza HQ over water crisis. Available at: Accessed 16 January 2013.
[click to view]

el-Hamalawy, Hossam (2008). Water Crisis in Fayoum. Available at
[click to view]


AhramOnline (2012). Egyptian slum crippled by water crisis. Available at: Accessed 16 January 2013.
[click to view]


Accessed 17 January 2013.

Meta information
Contributor:Patrick Burnett
Last update08/04/2014
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