Expanding the Nile’s Watershed: The Science and Politics of Land Reclamation in Egypt

Jessica Barnes

in Water on Sand

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199768677
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979608 | DOI:
Expanding the Nile’s Watershed: The Science and Politics of Land Reclamation in Egypt

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This chapter places water at the forefront of the story of land reclamation in Egypt. Using the World Bank's New Land Development Project as a case study, the chapter tracks how water—as both a physical resource and an object of scientific understanding—is central to reclamation efforts. The New Land Development Project (1980–1991) transformed twenty-four thousand feddans of desert west of the Nile delta into fields. Yet a mere two years after the project's end, many of the new fields lay fallow. Without the water necessary to sustain the land, production dropped significantly. The initial success of the project in creating productive lands in the desert was thus ultimately constrained by its failure to secure sufficient water resources to feed those lands. The roots of this failure lay in the assumptions that project managers made about how much water was needed, where the water would come from, and how much water was available. Without water, the new land was unable to flourish. The case of the New Land Development Project, therefore, offers useful insights on ongoing efforts to expand the Nile's watershed.

Keywords: Egypt; World Bank; land reclamation; water; water demand; water flow; desert; USAID; Nile river; environmental expertise

Chapter.  8908 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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