Has Egypt turned into a dumping ground for hazardous waste?

From time to time, local and international reports come out warning of the danger of Egypt turning into a dumping ground for hazardous and toxic waste from other countries.

Numerous reports confirm that Africa and the Middle East region is a dumping ground for major countries, especially for toxic and radioactive waste resulting from nuclear tests. Parliamentary data reveals that Egypt is among these countries. Parliamentarians’ statements and their interrogations of environment and health officials in Egypt warn of the danger of landfills with hazardous waste and the leniency in the matter, given that Egypt contains some deserts that are suitable for this.

The position of the ruling regime in Egypt remained ambiguous over these warnings and questions, as officials confirmed the existence of landfills of hazardous wastes in Egypt, but they take into account environmental and health requirements, they said. Fears have been renewed recently after the circulation of video clips of a fire crater releasing what looks like lava in the New Valley in the Western Desert.

The event raised astonishment and questions about the existence of a volcano in Egypt, as those close to the region confirmed the presence of heat emissions for some time and the emission of tongues of blue and red flames from the ground. After the spread of the video clips, officials confirmed that the fire pits were caused by reactions of chemical materials buried in the area, which prompted a question about the government’s permission to bury radioactive waste in the Egyptian desert.


This reinforced previous concerns following Russia’s announcement in 2017 that it was building a warehouse for storing spent nuclear fuel for the Dabaa Nuclear Plant it is building in Egypt, although it has not yet been built. The announcement raised fears at the time that Russia would use the project as a cover to bury its nuclear waste on Egyptian territory, especially after statements from the head of the Egyptian Nuclear Energy Authority.

The head of the Nuclear Energy Authority, Hassan Mahmoud, told parliament in February 2017 that nuclear waste would be disposed of according to the latest global and internationally recognised methods. For his part, a researcher in nuclear engineering at the Royal College in Canada, Mohamed Salah, warned in press statements about the dangerous and catastrophic repercussions of the nuclear agreement between the Egyptian government and Russia. He explained that this agreement threatens Egypt’s sovereignty, national security, and the future of its people and warned that there is no scientific or economic study on how to deal with nuclear waste.

Activists considered that Russia’s building of a warehouse for storing nuclear fuel in Egypt is a cover for burying its atomic waste in Egypt. They demanded the disclosure of the details of the Dabaa nuclear project. In the same context, the former Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister, Abdullah al-Ashaal, said that the Egyptian-Russian agreement to build a warehouse for storing nuclear fuel would make Egypt a landfill for the world’s rubbish. He emphasised that the nuclear waste, for which this warehouse was supposed to be manufactured and buried in Egypt’s land, has absolutely nothing to do with the Dabaa nuclear plant project, and it is not the plant’s output and waste.

Environmental disasters

MP Sherine Farag revealed that, in 2017, Egypt imported about EGP 15 billion of rubbish, including hazardous waste. According to the European Statistics Office (Eurostat) figures, Egypt’s reception of European garbage increased by a huge rate, reaching + 225 per cent. In 2018 Egypt imported about 1.7 million tonnes. For his part, Tadros Qaldas, Member of Parliament, described the current situation of burying and dealing with hazardous waste in Egypt as a deteriorating situation. In a statement, the MP affirmed that there is no sanitary landfill in Egypt that adheres to the safe, sanitary rules for disposing of solid and hazardous waste entirely. He pointed out that the leakage of hazardous wastes from chemicals and liquid leads to direct pollution of the soil and groundwater and increases health risks for residents .