‘Responding to Water Scarcity’ was the central theme of the second Cairo Water Week which took place from 20 to 24 October. The event attracted academics, scholars, policy makers and water resources experts from around the world. One of the visitors was Anna Goense, a Dutch consultant who recently started working on an ambitious sanitation project at Euroconsult Mott MacDonald through the Young Expert Programmes (YEP).
‘I used to work at the Dutch water company Evides, but since studying, I had the urge to go abroad. I find the Arab world very fascinating and a friend of mine who lived and worked in Cairo in recent years was super enthusiastic about it. So when this vacancy came my way from YEP Water, I immediately applied. I have the opportunity to work on a huge project at Mott MacDonald. Imagine, today I was in a meeting where the discussion centred around 50 different running contracts, and planning constructing 15 new waste water treatment plants!
Sanitation for 833,000 people
‘As a water and sanitation consultant, I am specifically involved in the Sustainable Rural Sanitation Services Programme. The objective is to provide increased access and improved sanitation for 155 to 200 rural villages serving approximately 167,000 new households and around 833,000 people. The programme aims to strengthen regional Water and Sanitation Companies (WSC) and the related sector policies for sustainably improving rural sanitation in Egypt. The WSCs will be empowered to play a bigger role in infrastructure and its management across the cycle of investment, from the initial studies to the tendering and then construction. The World Bank has financed a section of the work through its ‘Program-for-Results’ (P4R) model, totalling USD 550 million, with work due to be completed by March 2021. Mott MacDonald is leading a consortium that provides assistance to the Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities, as well as the WSCs.
NWP Managing Director, Bianca Nijhof and Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, H.E Mohamed Abdel Aty.
Long history of cooperation
The Netherlands and Egypt have a long history of cooperation on water, with the active involvement of the governments, the private sector, knowledge institutions and NGOs. Examples of this cooperation could be seen at the Cairo Water Week where: the Egypt-The Netherlands Expert Panel on Water took place; several Dutch speakers, including NWP Managing Director, Bianca Nijhof, were part of the conference programme; and a Netherlands-Egypt cooperation session was organised that involved several relevant international financial institutions to look for future cooperation in Egypt. During the Cairo Water Week, the World Water Council (WWC) announced the creation of an International Observatory on Unconventional Water and Energy Resources.
I didn't spend as much time at the Cairo Water Week as I would have liked. But clearly the Dutch water sector presented itself collectively in an appealing way in the Dutch Pavilion. The Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation visited the Pavilion as did the Minister of Water Resources of Sierra Leone. My colleagues at Mott MacDonald were very positive about the collective presentation, and we were able to trace the long track record of Mott MacDonald in the water sector in Egypt, which started back in 1927 with the raising of the Aswan Dam. It was also a good opportunity for me to get to know the other organisations participating in the Dutch Pavilion and to strengthen my network.
No longer cycling to work
I will be living in Cairo for the next two years and of course I find myself in a completely different culture. We will see how big the differences really are – as a young woman working in a technical environment, I am used to sometimes having to stand my ground. It’s a pity that here in Cairo I am picked up by car to take me to the office. What I will miss most is that I will no longer cycle to work every morning.
YEP Water offers two Egyptian Young Experts working on the same project and me a great opportunity to further develop ourselves in an international environment. YEP Water aims to rejuvenate the water sector, adding innovative methods and specific skills. I am learning a lot every day from colleagues who have loads of experience. And at the same time, I want to make my own modest contribution to innovating the sector, for example, by working more with GIS systems and data collection apps, and by applying more digital solutions in general. As young experts we might be the future leaders of the water sector!’