Abu Simbel farmers release tourists held over water shortage

Dozens of farmers in the Abu Simbel area have ended a sit-in and released 204 tourists they had held hostage inside their buses to demand the provision of irrigation water for their farms, Abu Simbel Mayor Assad Abdel Majid told ONA news agency Sunday.

The farmers captured the tourists after they had visited the Ramses II and Nefertari temples, blocking the road in front of the Abu Simbel Temple.

More than 2,500 acres had been planted since the beginning of the growing season and will be damaged due to a lack of irrigation water, the farmers had told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

The farmers had told Al-Masry Al-Youm that officials from the Agriculture and Irrigation ministries had not responded to their problems. After they held many sit-ins in front of Abu Simbel City Hall, the governor asked a committee to study the causes of the problem and ways to resolve it, but the committee members failed to do their job, the farmers said.

They refused to negotiate the release of the tourists with Abdel Majid, the Abu Simbel Airport director and Tourism Police Department leaders. However, they allowed an ambulance in to take a pregnant tourist and her husband out of the temple.

The farmers blamed the problem on former MP Ahmed Abu Hegy, a business associate who owns large tracts of land in Abu Simbel.

They said he has the right to 3,000 cubic meters of water a day but claims 13,000, taking 10,000 cubic meters out of farmers’ share, with the permission of the mayor and Irrigation Ministry officials.

Abdel Majid told ONA that the problem had been solved by ordering a temporary closure of Abu Hegy’s fish-breeding area, which consumes large quantities of water, until other means are developed to meet peasants’ water demands.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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