The Toshka mirage in the Egyptian desert - river diversion as political diversion

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Egypt's geography renders it vulnerable to water scarcity, but also enables it to control its inflow. After a run of high influx years from the Nile, Egypt embarked on a project to utilise the surplus water by planning a gigantic desert development project, Toshka, in the late 1990s. The present contribution argues that the project, even only as a dream, is instrumental to the control of the Egyptian population as well as Egypt's co-riparians on the river Nile. Rather than abandon the project, the post-revolutionary Egyptian government decided to push harder to make Toshka work. Three myths underlying the scheme (contribution to food security, solution to overpopulation and unlimited availability of water) however almost guarantee the scheme ending up another ‘white elephant’. Given the continuing disconnect between Egypt's government and population and Toshka's claim to boosting national greatness, I argue that, more than a river diversion plan, Toshka has turned out to be a political diversion plan from an enduring legitimacy deficit. The legitimacy base commanded by the newly elected president may obviate the need for such diversion in future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-112
JournalEnvironmental Science & Policy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • water forum contribution
  • virtual water
  • future
  • people

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