Thursday, September 17, 2009

Clearly, living along a river that snakes its way through a vast desert, Egyptians have a certain appreciation for water. Ancient Egyptian culture was deeply informed by a dependence on the River Nile. This is something I'd learned in history class long ago. In college, however, the research one of my professors conducted in water policy led me to understand what a vital role water plays today in international relations and conflict. It was therefore with great interest that I read about Israeli FM Lieberman's visits to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, home to the two most important sources of the Nile. This while Egypt and the other Nile Basin states are attempting to resolve their differences over water use issues. Though I'll refrain from Biblical allusions, it looks very much like Israel is trying to use water as a means of leverage over the Egyptians.
What made me think so much about water today wasn't anything on quite so grand a scale: My flatmate Phil purchased a couple of bottles of Hayat brand water for me before my return to Egypt. He prefers it, apparently, for its taste. I am a Nestlé Pure Life man myself it having been recommended as a reliable clean and neutral-tasting choice. I'd always been a little leary of Hayat. Phil and I debated the finer points of the Egyptian bottled water industry (while we weren't in our rooms, noses to the grindstone, working on our theses) agreeing that Baraka tastes the least pleasant of the major brands. With all of the discussion and my admittedly unsupported claims that my brand was healthier than his, I decided to check into the matter further. Such a riveting topic apparently hasn't warranted much journalist attention or blogging lately, at least not in English, but I found an article from early last year referring to Ministry of Trade and Industry tests. The results (probably interesting only to potential consumers of bottled water in Egypt) were that only seven brands were both fit for consumption and accurately labeled for mineral content, etc.: Aqua, Aqua Siwa, Aquafina, Dasani, Mineral, Nestlé, and Siwa. Schweppes, notably, was considered unsafe. Unsafer still are other sources of water in Egypt. Some 40% of Egyptians drink contaminated water that leads to typhoid outbreaks, kidney failure, and thousands of deaths a year. Recent water shortages across the river in Giza have forced local residents to pump their own water only to discover that it is contaminated with sewage. If anyone finds more recent material on bottled water in Egypt, do let me know.

News & Issues



No comments: