With COP27 approaching: Egypt suffers from further environmental failures

Next November, Egypt is preparing to host the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27). This supposedly motivated the Egyptian government to give more attention to the green transformation and global warming issues. However, the government’s actions have surprisingly been quite the opposite.

A few days ago, the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights revealed that the government had appealed against a court ruling issued last year obligating the government to take the necessary measures to stop the discharge of industrial sewage waste from a chemical fertilizer factory in the Nile River. The case goes back to two lawsuits filed by citizens from Aswan Governorate in 2016 and 2017, demanding that the government-owned Kima factory, which produces many chemical fertilizer products, stop discharging its industrial and sewage waste into one of the torrents draining into the Nile River at the entrance to Aswan Governorate.

The factory did not obtain the necessary licenses to dispose of its waste in the Nile, following the laws of the environment, the protection of the Nile River, and the water resources, which explicitly prohibit factories from dumping their industrial or sanitary waste into the Nile without obtaining a license to do so after completing the requirements for sewage treatment. Therefore, the government should have intervened and stopped the factory from working until it reconciled its conditions, which did not happen. According to the two lawsuits filed against the government, the factory did not care about the health and environmental impact of the resulting sewage, as it contains dangerous chemicals and carcinogens, which increased the rate of diseases in Aswan, including kidney failure.

After years of deliberations and pleadings, the court issued a ruling condemning the government’s failure to enforce the law and obligating it to take action to stop the violations of the” Kima” factory. Instead of the government implementing the court’s ruling, it appealed against it. In other words, the government refuses for one of its factories to stop polluting the Nile water used for drinking and agricultural irrigation. This comes at a time of increasing importance of water, especially in light of global climate changes and the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam crisis, which threatens the sustainability of freshwater sources in Egypt.

On the other hand, the government recently decided to reduce reliance on natural gas (the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon) to generate electricity and to expand the consumption of mazut, one of the worst fuel types, the most polluting of the environment and the least efficient in generating electricity. The government’s justification is to provide natural gas for export to take advantage of its high prices globally to obtain the foreign exchange that Egypt desperately needs to overcome the severe economic crisis it is experiencing, ignoring the negative environmental impact of diesel or Egypt’s environmental commitments in this regard. The government continues the crime of cutting trees and removing green spaces in cities under the pretext of “development” and widening roads. The Zahraa El Maadi neighbourhood is currently being stripped of trees. Before that, the government removed about 96 acres of green space in the old Heliopolis neighbourhood, bulldozed, and cut down dozens of trees from the Montazah Royal Gardens in Alexandria.

During the last few years, tens of thousands of trees surrounding canals and drains throughout Egypt have been removed, claiming that they hinder the process of lining these canals and `troughs as part of the state’s plan to reduce water wastage. Even after the lining of the canals was finished, the state did not plant these trees anymore but instead built concrete walls around the canals to prevent planting. This comes when the Egyptian citizen’s share of green spaces is 1.2 square meters, while the global average is 15 square meters per capita. To realize the size of the chasm we fall into, Per capita, green space in England is 24 meters, in Russia 20 meters, and the United States is 18 meters.

After all this, the government comes to claim that it seeks to conserve the waters of the Nile, reduce pollution and increase green spaces, and adopt campaigns with a marginal impact such as “Be prepared for a green” to spread environmental awareness or the campaign to stop using plastic bags, while the policies and actions of the central government contradict With all this, the negative impact is much more significant than some of the incorrect behaviour of citizens.