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Saudi Investors Eye Desal Projects in Egypt

CAIRO, Egypt

A delegation of Saudi investors has expressed interest in carrying out desalination projects in Egypt’s coastal cities.

During a meeting in Cairo last week with Egyptian Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation Facilities Abdel Qawi Khalifa, the investors reviewed a portfolio of desalination and sanitation projects, and "showed a keen interest in implementing desalination projects according to a BOOT [build, own, operate and transfer] scheme in Marsa Matrouh, Red Sea, North Sinai and South Sinai,” according to an informed source.

Egyptian officials also offered a set of sanitation projects on a public-private partnership basis. Most of these projects are in rural areas that have poor sanitation facilities.

The cash-strapped Egyptian government has been seeking foreign investment for desalination projects, and has been negotiating with Chinese and Indian companies to this end.

The Chinese government earlier this year committed to build a major desalination plant in northern Egypt to help increase water supply in coastal areas.

Egypt has recently adopted a strategy to maximize the amount of water produced from desalination plants in those areas, where Nile water is largely inaccessible.

Most current desalination projects are being implemented by the Egyptian Armed Forces. These include the 2,000 cubic meter Nueiba Desalination Plant; desalination plants in Central Sinai region; Rafah Desalination plant in North Sinai; the 2,500 cubic meter per day Aburedis Desalination Plant in South Sinai; and the 24,000 cubic meter per day Matrouh Desalination Plant, which will be Egypt's largest.

A recent study by the country’s Strategic Research Center found that Egypt will need some $5 billion USD in investment to desalinate 5.4 billion cubic meters of seawater by 2020.