The mega projects currently underway in the Sinai peninsula should be celebrated as liberating this governorate for the second time. After six long years of Israeli occupation of this sacred land, Sinai was liberated by the Egyptian army in the historic war that took place in 1973, known to all Egyptians as the October War.
But the return of Sinai to Egyptian administration was not associated with development programmes meant to compensate Sinai for decades of neglect and to reconnect this land with the capital. Former governments showed interest and ambitious plans to reconstruct Sinai were drawn up, but talk quickly faded away. The only locale that came to the forefront was Sharm El-Sheikh. Meanwhile, the rest of the peninsula was left behind to suffer from bad services and lack of development projects.
Terrorists groups found a safe haven in Sinai where they found an environment full of ignorance, unemployment and marginalised tribal leadership. But President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi developed a two-axis plan for this vast governorate. The first task was to liberate the northeast part of Sinai from the terrorists groups which had been prevailing and moving from one place to another, like cancerous cells. The police and the armed forces managed to uproot most of those cells. This crucial step was important not only for the government but also for Sinai's tribes and residents, who offered a helping hand to security forces in their attempts to clean their cities of radicals.
The second component of the president's plan for Sinai has been an unprecedented reconstruction drive where hundreds of development projects have been tabled. Major among them is a vast network of tunnels which will become the peninsula's veins of development, through which strategic industries will be fed with mineral resources from Sinai. This sacred land is full of resources, including iron, granite, marble and cement, which will now be easily transported to factories in the mainland. Giant fish farms, and thousands kilometres of roads that connect residential communities in Sinai with the rest of Egypt, will soon be in place. The reclamation of thousands of feddans mostly in the north and middle of Sinai will be irrigated via the Nile, where wells and dams will be established.
Work in Sinai is ongoing round the clock, and thus it is rather hard to describe. The development process is in full swing, constituting a grand leap toward the future for this sacred land. It is hard to understand how the government managed to complete such a great number of industrial, education, health and services projects in such a short time. Covering cities like Rafah in the northern part of Sinai to Abu Zeinima, Al-Tor and Sharm El-Sheikh in the south, passing through the Teina Valley in mid-Sinai, has called for huge funding and investment. There is also the mega project that will connect the peninsula with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This project will, for the first time, connect the two countries by road.
Sinai reconstruction is not a development project for the governorate by itself, just as building the High Dam was not a development project for Aswan alone. What is taking place in Sinai is a grand national development process for the whole country. The outcome of developing Sinai will be the locomotive for development in several sectors. The drive is meant to liberate supply that will push new blood through the veins of national industrial and agricultural production. It will reduce the country's dependence on imports, which in turn will reduce the costs of many products.
Selling Sinai's natural resources in raw form came to a standstill, because half industrialised resources can be sold at almost triple the price of raw materials. The development process will also create thousands of jobs that will raise standards of living. The benefits of the development process in Sinai are not only economic, but will stretch to the social, political and security sectors as well.
This process has put an end to speculation that Sinai will be consigned to be an alternative homeland for the Palestinians. Several foreign media outlets spread the rumor, and unfortunately many in Egypt believed it. Despite the president's assurances that Egypt would never give up a single inch of Sinai, rumours persisted. Yet, the grand development process taking place in Rafah and El-Arish put an end to such falsehoods. Sinai residents have waited long and made significant efforts and sacrifices to see this development process flourish. The benefits should first be theirs.