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A dream come true in Sinai
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 02 - 05 - 2019

Since Sinai's liberation from Israel's occupation in 1982, connecting the peninsula to the mainland, as a key first step towards comprehensive development of that region, has been one of the major challenges facing Egypt. On Sunday, and coinciding with the 37th anniversary of Sinai's liberation, this long-standing dream came true following the inauguration of four tunnels in Ismailia and Port Said, and a number of floating bridges, which will ease crossing from and to Sinai.
The tunnels, dug deep beneath the Suez Canal, are the biggest in the history of Egypt, and worldwide, in terms of length and diameter, the workload, and the record time for execution.
This mega project is probably the best reward for the people of that dear part of Egypt after withstanding years of relentless war against terrorist organisations who have attempted to turn Sinai into a safe haven for criminal activities. While Egypt's army and police will continue this war against terrorist groups, the Egyptian government has recognised the urgent need to ease tough living conditions for the people of Sinai.
The four tunnels President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi inaugurated Sunday will reduce the crossing time between the two sides of the Suez Canal to nearly 20 minutes, instead of previous overcrowding on ferries that forced trucks and cars to wait for up to five days. Previously, crossing between Sinai and the Nile Valley was only limited to Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel, and the Peace Bridge in Ismailia, as well as ferries, which did not fit the size of growing transport and trade from and to Sinai. Unfortunately, due to the confrontation with terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, the Peace Bridge has been mostly closed, and boarding on ferries became a major burden for Egyptians who want to cross from Sinai to the mainland.
Two of the four tunnels opened this week will accommodate the crossing of 50,000 cars daily, making life much easier for Sinai residents, and achieving giant economic revenues. The tunnels, provided with latest security systems, were built at the depth of 70 and 53 metres beneath the navigational course of the Suez Canal at the cost of LE12 billion, or $699 million. More than 3,000 engineers, technicians and Egyptian workers worked hard to finish this ambitious project in the period between July 2016 and 2019.
The projects come in line with Sinai Peninsula Development Plan launched by Al-Sisi shortly after taking office in 2014. This plan is set to be completed by 2022 at a cost of LE275 billion, or nearly $16 billion.
In addition, Al-Sisi on Sunday inaugurated the New Ismailia City, one of the most valuable third generation cities, consisting of six residential areas. It will accommodate the population growth and urban expansion of Ismailia city and the surrounding governorates. This city will also serve the anticipated workforce in the Suez Canal development projects. It is expected to provide more than 100,000 job opportunities during the construction period.
Moreover, the president opened on the same day a new drinking water station in New Ismailia, a new Corniche of Fisherman's Lake, a tourist walkway on the same lake, a new developed fish market, the floating Sarabium Bridge in Ismailia, and the Bridge of Martyr Ahmed Omar Shabrawi in Suez.
One key point Al-Sisi stressed during the inauguration was that these projects were implemented by civilian Egyptian companies, refuting false claims that the national army was expanding its role beyond its key mission of defending the country's borders and national security.
Al-Sisi said that some of the projects were implemented under the army's supervision only, to make sure that the civilian companies carrying out the work would meet the required deadlines. According to Al-Sisi, “it is illogical to claim that military personnel have such huge capacity needed to serve millions of citizens,” noting that claims on the expansion on the army's role were only aimed to spread false rumours by enemies of progress in Egypt.
The army does play an important role in Sinai, as well as at the western border with Libya and the southern border with Sudan, mainly because the population is small in these areas, and due to the need to fight terrorism. Without security and stability, it will be an illusion to speak about development or bringing investment to the country, Al-Sisi said.
Following the events Egypt witnessed in 2013, and the rise of terrorist activities by the Muslim Brotherhood group, several brotherly Arab countries provided generous help and support for the country. With the inauguration of the ambitious projects in the Suez area Sunday, we can confidently say that Egypt has started the stage of depending mainly on its own efforts and development plans. As the president has repeatedly underlined, “Only hard work, stability, peace and the fight against terrorism would help build Egypt.”

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