The Middle East is no stranger to construction failures. This page on Arabia Business gives an almanac of such failures. What is interesting about this list is the presence of some substantially big names. Failure of mega construction projects in the region therefore hardly raises any eyebrows.The story in Egypt daily that talks about the failure of Toshka New Valley Project therefore did not come as a surprise. What is appalling about the story is not just the failure of the project but the complete lack of accountability on part of all key players. From minimal pre-operational environmental impact assessment to a total disregard of ground realities, this project is testament to all that is wrong with the corporate decisions influenced by politics.
The Toshka New Valley project is meant to develop agricultural production and create new jobs away from the Nile Valley by creating a second Nile Valley.
This includes redirecting water from Lake Nasser to irrigate the Western Desert of Egypt via canals. The project which some claimed was a little too ambitious even at its inception, is meant to help Egypt deal with its growing urban population and was touted as the “New era of hope for Egypt”.
The Toshka Project is supposed to be completed in 2020, and according to Ministry of water Resources and Irrigation in Egypt, the valley will attract investment in terms of industrial, agricultural and tourism investment. It is also intended to house than three million residents and to increase Egypt’s arable land area by 10%. However, on-ground reality paints a completely different and dismal picture.
There is no documented environmental impact assessment done on the sight before the project was launched. An assessment of the possible positive or negative impact that a proposed project may have on the social and environmental landscape helps determine the feasibility of the project. According to the report in the Egypt Independent, “A look at some technical requirements show that not everything was taken into full consideration before the first ploughs started digging, and to this day, the Water Resources and Irrigation Ministry — responsible for the project — does not make public the different studies related to Toshka it may have conducted over the years”.
Cynicism over the supposed wisdom of reclaiming land in an area with extremely hostile and unpredictable weather has also been expressed. Temperatures ranging from 0°C to 50°C are routinely experienced in the area and this makes a number of construction activities a virtual impossibility. According to Conservationist Mindy Bahaa Eddin claims that Toshka would have caused great damage to the many ancient sites found in Kharga Oasis.
Most, if not all of these issues could have been avoided or at least minimized had there been an open and transparent pre-assessment mechanism for the project. Like all things in business, transparency is the key to building trust and the Toshka project, even before its completion has cast doubts in the hearts of its stakeholders.
Image of Toshka water pump via panopticon