The Director of the United Nations Relief and
Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the
Near East, UNRWA Headquarters, Beirut,
The offices of the undersigned were delegated in October, 1953, by the Government of the Republic of Egypt and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, with the Joint responsibility of directing a survey project of which the object was to determine the feasibility and estimated cost of a scheme which is outlined in a project agreement dated the 14th of October, 1953, and signed, on behalf of the Republic of Egypt, by the Chairman of the Permanent Council for the Development of National Production, and, on behalf of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, by the UNRWA Representative to Egypt. In the performance of this task the Co-Directors have been assisted by the Director of the Palestine Affairs Office of the Ministry of War and by a Joint Policy Committee of which he is a members.
The principal features of this scheme are the conveyance of irrigation water from the Nile River to a part of the Sinai, east of and adjacent to the Suez Canal, and its deployment thereon for the purpose of reclaiming and permanently irrigating an area of not less than 50,000 feddans which the Egyptian Government has offered as a possible means of livelihood for Palestine refugees now residing in the Gaza Strip.
The investigations which have been made cover principally the three broad fields of irrigation engineering, agriculture and refugee rehabilitation. With regard to the work carried out directly by Egyptian Government Departments, the services rendered by their permanent staff have been~ contributed by the Egyptian Government. Otherwise, all the costs of the investigations have been met from the UNRWA rehabilitation fund, The results of these surveys and studies have been put together Jointly by Egyptian Government and UNRWA personnel and are embodied in the attached report entitled "Survey Report, Northwest Sinai Project Republic of Egypt."
The technical annexes, from which the respective parts of the Survey Report have been compiled, and which furnish more details of the work which has been done~ are not yet available for publication. It is the intention that they shall be published successively in the immediately following months and in a form that will assist the compilation of such detailed planning reports that may later be required. The Survey Report has been so written as to make the technical annexes unnecessary for an understanding of the conclusions and recommendations presented in the report itself.
In presenting this Survey Report for your consideration, the Co-Directors wish to place on record their appreciation of the services rendered by the staff of the Permanent Council for the Development of National Production, and, by the technical departments of the Ministries of Public Works and Agriculture, as well as the Council of Public Services and the Department of Statistics. They also wish to record their appreciation for the services of the engineering consultants and specialists of the UNRWA, for those of the United States International Co-operation Administration, and for the advice and facilities which they have received throughout from the Palestine Affairs Office of the Ministry of War.
The project will be located in the northwestern portion of the Sinai Peninsula. It lies within the Isthmus of Suez, approximately 140 kilometres from the city of Cairo, and roughly midway between Port Said and the town of Suez.
The general project area throughout the greater portion of its length lies east of and approximately adjacent to the Suez Canal. The northern portion of the area turns to the northeast away from the town of Qantara (East).
Size of Project Area
In accordance with the Project Survey Agreement, preliminary surveys were to be conducted in the Northwest Sinai covering an area "bordered on the western side by the Suez Canal, on the south and east sides by the contour plus fifteen metres and on the north side by the water of the Mediterranean". This embraces an area of more than 230,000 feddans, more than half of which are the tidal flats lying southeast of Port Said.
The project Survey Agreement provided for topographic surveys of the area and for selection by the Joint Policy Committee, while the mapping proceeded, of these portions of the area which should be given detailed consideration.
As the reconnaissance surveys proceeded, doubt was raised regarding the feasibility of reclaiming the tidal flats in a short period of time. Although these marshy tidal flats could be served with irrigation water delivered by gravity, they contained excessive salt and it was seen that their reclamation would require a relatively long period of development and large expenditure.
On these grounds, the Co-Directors agreed, at the second meeting of the Joint Policy Committee, to exclude these marshes from consideration at the time and to extend the boundary of the total area to be surveyed and investigated into the lands south of the Gaza highway.
As a result, the project area falls into two natural divisions: the Northern Area, bounded on the north generally by the zero contour line, on the west by the Suez Canal, on the south by the Gaza highway, and on the east generally by the plus fifteen metre contour; and the Southern Area lying to the south of the Gaza highway, which extends to an arbitrary line running east from kilometre fifty-six of the Qantara - E1-Shatt railway and is bounded generally by the contour plus twenty metres on the east and by the Suez Canal on the west.
In order to conserve time and expenditure, it was agreed by the Joint Policy Committee to reduce the extent of the survey and soil examination in the area remaining to be investigated. In this way~ a selective survey policy evolved concerned primarily with obtaining sufficiently reliable data to demonstrate the feasibility of the project on the most suitable area of about 50~000 feddans.
The lands selected for reclamation by 10,000 farm families and the results of the soil classification studies thereon are described in the Soils and Soil Improvement Chapter. The final total area under consideration is shown as the shaded portion of Plate l.
The precise delineation of the final project area is a matter which belongs more properly to a detailed planning report.
Physiography and Geology
The project area lies against the Isthmus of Suez, a low-lying piece of land joining Africa to the Siuai Peninsula and the adjoining land mass of Asia. Significant geological deposits in the project area are of recent age. The Isthmus has gradually assumed its present appearance through the accumulation of deposits left there by the sea, the Nile and the winds. Between Qautara and the Bitter Lakes, the sand dunes of the project area are of recent age and overlie lake beds which may be of Pleistocene Age. Those late deposits show a well marked sequence of deposition layers consisting of gravels, sands, and clays, and harder beds of gypsum and some halite. Outcrops of these gypsum beds may be seen in the eastern bank of the canal in the vicinity of Ismailia. In general, these deposits are relatively deep over the project area and have no effect on the soils.
Project lands rise to the east and southeast to about fifteen metres above sea level within five to six kilometres (see Plate 2)• They are bordered on the east and southeast by steeper lands which rise to the highlands of the Sinai Peninsula. Due to the extremely absorptive nature of the soil, and the low rainfall, there are no well defined wadis or other channels. The topographical details have been formed by wind action characterized by shallow depressions and low, isolated knolls. Within the first ten kilometres north of Ismailia, project lands are relatively rough. For the next ten kilometres to the north, the lands are much flatter except for relatively steep slopes along the eastern margin. The remainder of the area lying north and east of Qantara contains smooth flat slopes with minor exceptions.
South of Ismailia, the first ten kilometres of the project area are narrow and rough and have been excluded from consideration for development. Beyond this narrow strip the topography is flat to gently-rolling, with a maximum width of about ten kilometres.
The climate of the area is semi-tropical desert, characterized by very low annual rainfall, long summers, clear skies and pronounced diurnal temperature changes. Climatological data are available for Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, all adjacent to the project area. Table I-1 summarizes the official records for the three towns and Plate 3 shows graphically the data for Ismailia with the exception of wind velocities, which are plotted for Port Said and Suez, since no record exists for Ismailia. Of the three towns, the Ismailia records should be more nearly representative of the climate of the project area as a whole.
During the long summer season, from April to November, daytime temperatures are generally high but the diurnal difference is great and averages 13.4°C. During the winter months, from December through March, the days are pleasantly warm but again diurnal temperature differences remain great, averaging 11.8°C. Since frosts rarely occur, injury to crops due to low temperature occurs infrequently, and damage even to sensitive sub-tropical crops is slight.
Rainfall occurs almost entirely during the winter months.
It is characterized by heavy showers of short duration and occasional brief storms of severe intensity. Small amounts are recorded in the months of April May and October and there is no rainfall in the area during the months of June, July, August and September. No appreciable storm run-off is anticipated in the project area.
Mean monthly wind velocities reported at Port Said vary from ll.3 to 15.5 kilometres per hour. The eastward moving storms are the primary influence on weather conditions. During the winter, the storm patterns are centred over the Mediterranean and their passing causes wind, cloudy weather, and occasional rain. During the° spring, the passage of storms is over the Libyan desert, frequently resulting in strong winds known as the Khamasin.
History and Archaeology
The Sinai Peninsula, although now largely an uninhabited desert, has witnessed the development of man, cultures, and civilization over an extended period of history. Its strategic position between the Holy Lands and Egypt, connecting Asia and Africa by a narrow strip of land, has made it the eastern rampart for the defence of the Delta and Nile Valley, as well as a route of invasion in times past for the armies of Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Turks. During the two world wars, large allied armies saw service in this area.
Egyptian expansion in the direction of the Sinai began as early as the Sixth Dynasty (2400 B.C.) when efforts were made by the rulers to settle the area’s autonomous population on these lands by regulating irrigation, thus creating beyond the kingdom a protective zone against attacks from without and sporadic raids of hostile nomads from within.
Its economic importance was at its highest when the Pelusia branch of the Nile flowed from the vicinity of Cairo through the northwestern fringes of the project area to the Mediterranean, enabling the irrigation and cultivation of the peripheral area. During this period, when the southern branch flowed through Qantara into the Bay of Pelusium, some thirty kilometres east of the present city of Port Said, the area surrounding Pelusium and the banks of the River was under extensive cultivation. Vineyards existed and barley, wheat and other grains were grown. Indeed, Pelusium was looked upon by the invading armies as a source of replenishment of applied for the troops.
By 800 A.D. with the Pelusiac branch of the Nile beginning to silt up, the flow diminished, thus ushering in the eclipse of the area as a seat of settled population. At the present time, Pelusium exists only as an indistinct mound of ancient ruins surrounded by the blank desolation of the desert. It has been explored from time to time by amateur and professional archaeologists who have barely scratched the surface of the area which comprises the ancient city. These ruins lie outside the area proposed for development.
Closer to the Suez Canal evidence exists of the remains of ancient cities along the route followed by invading armies. A cluster of ancient structures on the borders of a depression just southeast of Qantara in the centre of the project area indicates that Lake Ballah once covered this depression, and that several villages were located along its banks. Some of these village ruins might be within the development area but are not of particular archaeological interest.
Except for Pelusium, Qantara, and a few scattered ancient villages, there are no other known historical remains of archaeological value in the general area.
Within the project area there are few signs of organized society. shall clusters of black bedouin tents with a few camels and domestic animals may be seen at certain seasons of the year, but no permanent bedouin establishments exist due to the scarcity of vegetation for grazing.
The only towns in the Sinai which lie in the immediate proximity of the project area are Qantara (East), a terminus for the Palestine Railroad of approximately 7,110 persons, and Gilbana, the railroad watering point some eighteen kilometres to the east, comprised of few houses built for employees of the railroad and the local security forces. Qantara lies on the Suez Canal twenty kilometres north of the proposed siphon crossing and just outside the northwestern boundaries of the project area. Apart from a few family garden plots it depends almost entirely on external sources for its requirements. Its water supply comes by pipeline from the Sweet Water Canal lying on the Western side of the Suez Canal.
Although it lies on the west bank of the Suez Canal, the town of Ismailia is of foremost importance to the project. It will undoubtedly become the principal supply and distribution centre for the project area and possesses hospitals and other public service institutions which will probably see use by the future project population. Ismailia had a recorded population of 68,229 in the census of 1947.
The area is administered under the authority of the Frontier Administration of the Egyptian Ministry of War.
The project area is linked by ferry at Ismailia and Qantsma with good surfaced roads which run along the west bank of the Suez Canal from Port Said to Suez and from Ismailia to Cairo. From Cairo to Ismailia, immediately across the Suez Canal from the project area, the distance is 140 kilometres, Within the project area along the eastern bank of the Canal, an asphalt surfaced road runs from Port Tawfiq in the south, some 120 kilometre north to Qantara and then northeast to El-'Arish. A second highway runs directly east from the Ismailia ferry crossing and then northward some 327 kilometres to Gaza.
About eight kilometres north of Ismailia the new Firdan bridge crosses the Shez Canal, carrying a standard gauge railway which connects with the Qantara-Gaza line to the north and with Port Tawfiq to the south. From Ismailia rail connections can be made with Port Said, Suez, Cairo, Alexandria and Upper Egypt.
Smaller roads built for army use provide a rudimentary system of access roads and thus, due to the elongated shape of the project area, no point is further than five kilometres from both the railway and a good highway. The proximity of the Suez Canal enables ready access to the area by water borne transportation.
At present only scattered oases located in shallow depressions throughout the project area can be seen. These are very small and consist of clusters of palm trees which draw their water from shallow brackish beds where the limited rainfall has collected. Agriculture in the project area is non-existent and the agricultural census of 1950 reported a total of only 3,762 feddans under cultivation in the entire Sinai Peninsula. The bulk of these lands are in the Rafah El-Arish, northeastern fringe of the Peninsula, some 100 to 200 kilometres from the project area.
The Suez Canal constitutes the most significant economic asset in the general area, The Canal, which was started in 1854 and officially opened in 1869, has been constantly improved until the volume of traffic it now handles has placed Port Said in the category of one of the principal ports of the world. Most ships transitting the Canal stop at Port Said to take water and provisions, giving rise to a considerable ship chandling trade.
In conjunction with its canal operations, the Suez Canal Company operates general workshops, water treatment and filtration plants, power plants, clinics, and hospitals. The Company provides employment for over 4,000 workmen as well as for 775 pilots and other marine personnel. The existence of the Canal has brought about a growth of population in the Isthmus of Suez from several thousand to over 350,000 and this is rapidly increasing. Agriculture has developed due to the construction of the Sweet Water Canal, and industrial development including ship repair yards, salt works, fertilizer plants, oil depots, and working of Red Sea ore deposits have also multiplied. In 1951, there were almost 6,000 commercial and over 2,800 small industrial trades establishments in the area of the Isthmus of Suez.
Apart from the activities of the Suez Canal Company, there exists little in the framework of a general economy in the area. Except for sand and gypsum which are found in abundance and can be used for certain construction purposes~ there are no known mineral resources in the prgject area to support ftu'ther economic activity.
This report is concerned with only a portion of that cycle, namely, the availability of water to meet the requirements of project uses and the ultimate disposal of the available supply. The subject as it pertains to the project is covered in the two general topics of water supply and water requirements.