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Environmental situation in Egypt decay – businesses, state should act

Environmental situation in Egypt
Photo credit: World Health Organization (WHO)

Cairo, the capital of Egypt tops the list of worst ten cities in the world in terms of  levels of pollution for air, light and noise according a report by Eco Experts, said Lara Hamidi, principal researcher at ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies in a new research the group published today.

The researcher cited the authors note that scarcity of land and water are the greatest problems challenging society, not mentioning the increasing levels of air pollution, marine degradation, desertification and climate change.

Egypt is one of the leading examples of water scarcity that has affected the state and businesses significantly, the researcher said.

Egypt’s water crisis

The MENA region suffers from semi-arid to arid climates where vast lands are exposed to little or no rain, resulting in barren conditions hampering economic development, the research said.

Over recent years, Egypt’s water crisis has been getting worse, with negligent irrigation methods, misuse of natural water resources and uneven water distribution, the future for development looks distressing, the research indicated.

The research added that with heavy reliance on the River Nile as the main source of renewable freshwater, the 6,650 km river is the main pillar for the Egyptian agricultural and industrial sector, whilst additionally being the main source of drinking water for the country.

According to the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct Water Egypt has been ranked as the 43rd country to be at risk of water scarcity with a ranking of 3.07 and its risk level labeled high.

With this, Egypt has faced an annual water deficit of around 7 billion cubic meters and has approximately as little as 20 cubic meters of international renewable freshwater resources per person.

Water security is one of the two major national security priorities that are in constant review, however, it should not only be addressed as a security crisis; rather a crisis that affects all sectors of Egypt’s society, specifically affecting the quality of life of civilians and businesses, the research said.

With time, the climate will get drier and heat waves will hit more regularly in the region, therefore the Egyptian economy and population should not sit in silence.

The research stressed that the state and businesses across the country must recognize the importance of water conservation in their daily production methods, hence looking after the scarce natural water reserves they have access to.

Air pollution 

Apart from the concerning levels of water insecurity, Egypt, specifically, the city of Cairo is facing increasing air pollution through the accumulation of factories and industries coupled with transport emissions, the research said.

The main sources of pollution in Egypt come from industry and open burning of organic solid material.

The country’s location as a desert region results in increased transmission of dust and sand particles blowing into the neighboring lands.

According to the world pollution index as of the middle of 2021, Cairo has been ranked as the 13th most polluted city in the world, with a pollution index of 91.45.

With the air quality being recorded to vary from between 10 to 100 times more polluted than the worldwide acceptable rate.

Thus, it should be mandatory that businesses and the state focus on monitoring and eliminating the effects of the heavy toxic contaminants in the capital city, the researcher said.

Cement factories’ impact 

In Egypt, one of the biggest contributors to environmental degradation lies with the cement industry, which produces alarming rates of cement glut with each production batch, the researcher said.

Over the past three years, the Egyptian cement production capacity rose from an annual 85 million to 87 million tons. This major industry accounts for 10% of the Egyptian manufacturing GDP, making up to 1% of the Egyptian GDP.

In May, in an attempt to contain the environmental impact of this industrial sector, the government proposed that cement factories must cut their production output by 10% to make up for the cement glut.

The solution to improving production standards in the industry is, as at the development of the sector in 1998, is to persuade the private sector to invest.

The Government must deal with the private cement companies and the state-owned companies, the research recommended.

This will not be simple, the researcher said.

As of 2019, there were 19 operating cement companies with 42 lines of production across the country, 18 in the private sector, one by the Egyptian state and 52% owned by foreign investors.

It is essential that the proposed production and emission criteria are uniform, transparent and applicable to all the plant in the country, the research said.

Impact on economic development 

In Egypt’s capital , Cairo, the annual economic cost alone of the air pollution produced is estimated to account for 1.4% of Egypt’s GDP.

Ultimately, it is evident that the impact of climate change and environmental degradation is extremely detrimental to Egypt’s economic development the research said.

Egypt’s methods of irrigation have proven insufficient as the country only receives as little as 80 mm of rainfall a year, with the country having only 6% arable land for the agricultural economy.

Furthermore, the country’s methods of sourcing water primarily from the Aswan High Dam has proven inefficient in its attempt to ration the country’s water supply, the research said.

Coupled with this, the country loses 3 billion cubic meters of water loss from the evaporation of the Nile River water supply.

The research said that within the near future, if the country’s water supply continues to decrease at this alarming rate, the state will continue to lose arable land available for agriculture and water for industry.

Furthermore, the agricultural sector is the largest employer of youth with a decrease in the ability to produce, large agricultural  businesses will be forced to close resulting in a significant increase in unemployment, the research added.

What to be done?

The researcher recommended the following suggestions to assist companies, and the state, in playing their respective roles in their implementation:

  1. choose to work with suppliers who engage in sustainable practices;
  2. ask their suppliers to adopt more sustainable practices or, in turn, change to more sustainable and environmentally-friendly suppliers;
  3. use green energy: renewable energy varieties such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power can reduce your office’s carbon footprint;
  4. conduct regular self-assessment to find out how well their business prevents pollution in their operations, to ensure over time, an eco-friendly performance;
  5. identify raw materials that have the potential to become environmentally toxic and where possible replace them with cleaner, non-toxic raw materials;
  6. use modern technologies that provide industrial factories and power plants with cleaner options for filtering emissions;
  7. hire a professional waste management business that is competent and qualified in the sector;
  8. educate staff and the business administration on the fundamentals of environmental protection;
  9. implement ethical regulations and legislation that will support the health and safety of their employees, thus enabling them to work in a positive and environmentally beneficial manner; and
  10. ensure that the most important regulations and policies of environmental monitoring are accessible by all businesses, foreign investors and state industries.

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