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Environmental issues in Egypt

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Environmental issues in Egypt

Environmental issues in Egypt includes air pollution, water pollution and soil contamination. The formation of dust particles is more characteristic in Egypt than in industrialized countries.

Air pollution

Air pollution in Cairo

The air pollution in Cairo is a matter of serious concern. The air quality in downtown Cairo is more than 10 to 100 times of acceptable world standards.[1] Cairo has a very poor dispersion factor because of lack of rain and its layout of tall buildings and narrow streets, which create a bowl effect (bad ventilation and consequent trapping of pollutants). The main air pollution problem in Egypt is the particulate matter. The most notable sources of the dust and small particles is transportation, industry and open-air waste-burning. Another significant source is the wind blown from arid areas around Egypt (e.g. Western Desert). The air in Egypt is very thick, gray and there is a haze over Cairo. Furthermore, other forms of air pollution in Egypt are: sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in urban areas. As well as carbon monoxide (CO) in streets, due to the excess amount of cars exhaust and factories pollutants. The sky is gray rather than blue, which is very similar to the gray skies in Mexico City and Beijing.

These pollutants, of course, create a lot of respiratory diseases as the United States Environmental Protection Agency has published risk data which state that above the safe limit, the risk of developing serious respiratory disease and cancer from inhaling particulates in the air (dust & soot, hydrocarbons, and heavy metal compounds) is: 2 persons for every 1000.

Noise pollution

From blaring car horns to wedding parties, rising noise pollution in the 24-hour metropolis of Cairo has reached alarming levels, leading to health problems. Living in the city centre, where noise levels reach an average of 90 decibels (dB) and never drop below 70 dB, is like spending all day inside a factory, a 2007 study by the Egyptian National Research Centre (NRC) said "What's striking about Cairo is that noise levels on different streets at different times of day are well over limits set by the environmental protection agency (EPA)".[2] Noise pollution can contribute to many health problems.

Egypt's hydropolitics

The Nile River passes through 9 countries before it reaches the flood plains of Egypt.

Egypt is part of the Nile Basin alongside Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The allocation of power over the use of the Nile has been a source of conflict for years. The Nile is a symbol of Egypt's nationalism which has led to strong opposition from neighboring countries. The Nile River provides irrigation, hydroelectricity and industrialization for Egypt. Egypt claims to support and stress the importance of water and agricultural projects in order to preserve its environment and allow for the Nile to develop an abundance of resources. Egypt has once threatened to go to war over water conflict against Ethiopia and Tanzania in the past.[3] Regarding Egypt's current water conflicts, one current and controversial water issue is Egypt's current stance against the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The Dam proposed by Ethiopia is an engineered gravity dam on the Blue Nile that will be one of the biggest water projects near the region. The issue then for Egypt, among other countries in the Nile Basin, is whether this project will decrease water flow in the Nile. The Nile Basin Initiative, Egypt's civil society, and foreign relations are a few of the main contributors to the historical and social framework Egypt's hydropolitics and environmental concerns.

Egypt's hydropolitical framework

  • Nile Basin Initiative

An initiative that mediates the Nile Basin for all countries that share the river in order to share socioeconomic benefits of the Nile and the promotion of regional peace and security.

  • Environment's Civil Society

Egyptians are active on land rights and land reforms. The 1997 repeal of Nasser-era land reforms policies and the Land Center for Human Rights were some of the changes of Egypt's environmental political activism. In Sinai, Egypt the lack of land reforms to stabilize the security crisis in Sinai by Mohamed Morsi, Hosni Mubarak and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.[4]

  • Environmental foreign relations in Egypt

Egypt has had a significant role to play in mediating conflicts of Arab States and East African states. Egypt was a mediator in resolving disputes between Arab states. Sudan and Egypt relations are weak; presently is a territorial dispute with Sudan over the Hala'ib Triangle. However, both countries are in agreement with the issue of water access and water rights on behalf of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Legislative power over land and water

Egyptian Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs

The Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency is the highest authority in Egypt for promoting and protecting the environment. It is also secondary to bigger ministries in Egypt like that of Petroleum, Industry or Finance.[5] In 1997, Egypt's first full-time Minister of State for Environmental Affairs was assigned to deal with environmental policies for sustainable development.

The Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs (MSEA) and its executive arm, the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) considers the management of natural resources to all of Egypt's national policies and projects. The main objective is to preserve natural resources, biological diversity and national heritage in relation to sustainable development.[6] Environmental Protection Agency scientists signed an agreement with counterparts in Egypt to protect human consumption from microbiological contamination in drinking water.[7]

Rural inequality is an issue in Egypt's agricultural development. Central government policies and wealth have been a core political issue concerning the relationship between rural population and state. International development, similar to the Grand Renaissance dam, is debated over proper management of resources. Timothy Mitchell, a political scientist of the Arab world, suggests that a solution may be to "decentralize the state and allow for some of the powers in Egypt's market to be reconfigured".[8] In this way, Egypt can counteract agricultural differences based on management of the Nile which is a shared agricultural source for most of the 9 countries dependent on its natural resources.

The Grand Renaissance Dam issue

Renaissance Dam location.

Egyptian nationalists have denounced Ethiopia's new project, The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The Great Renaissance Dam will be Africa's largest hydroelectric facility.[9] The construction of the dam will affect Sudan and Egypt's political relations with Ethiopia. In 1959 Egypt and Sudan made an agreement that allowed for Egypt to have 70% of the Nile's water flow while Sudan had 30 percent.[10] In 2013 protestors gathered in front of Ethiopian embassy in Cairo, as then Morsi administration, allowed for project to proceed. Egyptian administrations have attempted military solutions to halt the project, but the Egyptian government at the time did not pursue.[11]

The Italian Salini (Salini Impregilo) Company is building the Renaissance Dam [12] after signing a contact with the Ethiopian government in December 2010 worth $4.65 billion to be completed in six years.[13] Egypt's Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation visited Italy to explain the country's water security. Egypt is continuing international influence to protect their share of the Nile waters, as well as contacting international donors, the World Bank and the African Development Bank to not give technical support for the construction of the dam in order to halt any damage to Egypt. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn declared that Ethiopia would not back down from building the Renaissance dam.[14] There was no clear agreement made by water ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. Egypt planned to send foreign experts to follow on how to implement experts' reports on behalf of building the dam first. Egypt's influence to propose a halt on the Dam is at difficult transition.

On April 13, 2014, Ethiopia's National Panel of Experts faced controversy with the [15] The creation of Grand Renaissance Dam would not affect Egypt's share of Nile as it is not constructed for irrigation but rather hydroelectricity. Water may be lost from evaporation but Egypt and Sudan will benefit from the dam due to the trapped sediments that would otherwise flow downstream prolonging lives of major reservoirs in both countries.[16] Egypt has attempted to gain support in order to halt construction of the dam. As of April 25, 2014 Ethiopia has completed 32% of the Grand Renaissance Dam.[17]

Overview of Sudan and Egypt water relations

The 1929 Agreement between Egypt and Sudan allowed for Egypt to have more control over the entire flow of the river. However, when Sudan gained independence in 1956 there was demand for revision of the treatment. An agreement in 1959 allowed for 55.5 billion cubic meters of water to go to Egypt and 18.5 billion cubic meets to Sudan. Sudan has fertile land where expanded irrigation could be profitable. Sudan had tried to increase water supplies by draining the Sudd wetlands of the south. Sudan had faced a failed project, Jonglei Canal in 1984.[18]

Tension with Saudi Arabia

Egypt has sought Saudi aid on halting the construction of the Renaissance Dam. Currently, Saudi Arabia invests in economic development projects based in Ethiopia. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have offered financial aid packages, approximately $10.7 billion, to the Egyptian government after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood. [19] The significance of Egypt and Saudi Arabi's relationship could either be beneficial for Egypt's goals in stopping the construction of the dam or prove otherwise.

Egypt's water resource projects in the Upper Nile

When looking at Egypt's participation in water projects that promote economic and agricultural growth in the region and beyond, it is necessary to see the impact that Egypt has had in its own country and its participation with foreign relations. These are some projects in which Egypt has tried to utilize the Nile and nearby rivers.

The Charter of Integration between Egypt and Sudan:

  • The Jonglei Canal project in Bahr al-Jabal and Bahr az-Zaraf Area was constructed to prevent waste of water, approximately 15 billion cubic meters, due to evaporation in swamp areas.
  • The Mashar Swamps project was created to collect lost water from Mashar swamps and Sobat River.
  • The Northern Bahr al-Ghazal project was constructed to combat the loss of intensive evaporation. The project was constructed by digging a canal in order to collect and channel water from the northern part of Bahr al-Ghazal with the White Nile.
  • The Southern Bahr al-Ghazal project was constructed so that the river waters from Bahr al-Ghazabal would flow east towards Bahr al-Jabal.[20]

Additional Egyptian projects

Along with the projects made between Sudan and Egypt; Egypt has considered storage projects in equatorial lakes: Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga, Lake Albert. Egypt is in participation with Ethiopia and Uganda in some projects and establishing power generation stations. Egypt financed several contributions made to water conservation: the assessment of available water resources, climate change, drought, Basin's water quality, and water planning. Egypt has constructed over the course of its history several other projects, namely: Mahmoudiyah canal, Suez Canal, Aswan Dam, Toshka (otherwise known as the New Valley Project). The Aswan Dam was constructed as Egypt's main source of yielding electric power.[21]

The New Valley Project was designed as a second drainage water. The project Al-Ein Es-Sokhna New Port is located near the Suez Gulf and is a 4 km canal that connects the passage route of the Suez Canal to the Al-Ein Es-Sokhna New Port that has 4 basins that accommodate ships.[22] These projects have contributed to water engineering, conservation and distribution in Egypt and surrounding areas.

View of the Aswan Dam.

Importance of Water Resources for Egypt

Nile River and the Aswan.

The Nile River has allowed for the summation of natural resources. This affects Egyptians through the course of agricultural lands and irrigation systems. In addition to this, Egypt has an expanding population and limited resources. Although, countries like that of Western Europe, Japan and North America have higher demands on world resources. As a result, Egyptians have less land to farm however produce more crops per person than Thailand or the Philippines. The management of the Nile is important for economic growth in Egypt. As a result, the impact has been that of an economic issue between various agents, both human and nonhuman agents. With the opening of natural resources and technological advancements through developmental projects in Egypt, it has historically created a range of feedback from Egyptians. Among these agricultural projects, the construction of villages were created to provide for the irrigation strategies following from that of Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt as a means of strengthening Egypt's economy at the height of its capitalist endeavors during British occupation.[23]

As the movement of economic growth through a market that had difficulty measuring import and export of capital through, not only foreign trade, but within Egypt's borders. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces have had an impact on Egyptians during Egypt's revolutionary years. Starting from the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 environmental issues have increased by an array of actors taking a variety of direct actions in the public sphere. There has been intense social protest in Egypt and increased demand for access to resources such as agricultural land. Presently Egypt's uncertainty with Ethiopia's project is correlated with an economic interest in that agricultural land will be affected when rising natural resource shortages are at a high. Egypt depends on fruit cultivated land that is found across the Nile and has sustained Egypt's agriculture for more than 5,000 years.[24] Egypt's fresh water is mainly derived from underground water. Underground water results in 95% of Egyptian's desert land. Egypt is also dependent on rain water but it is a scarce and limiting source for agricultural development. In addition, Egypt resuses agricultural drainage water in correlation with Nile water for irrigation.[25]

The importance of dams for Egyptians is exponential. The High Dam placed a halt on annual flooding of the Nile and allowed for extended sugarcane cultivation albeit the growing of wheat was displaced. The Nile floods provided brick making and house building labor. Mud became less available from the High Dam. The Nile allowed for 124 million tons of sediment to be carried to the sea each year and after the creation of the dam 98% of that sediment fell under the dam.[26] Environmentally, the Aswan Dam has contributed to numerous issues for Egyptians. The expansion of desert areas since the Aswan High Dam's construction in 1970 has increased in soil salinity which allowed for waterborne diseases to emerge. In 1994, 28% of Egypt's soils were damaged by significant levels of salinity.[27] The importance of water resources for Egyptians has contributed to the creation of agencies, such as the Egyptian Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs, that promote and protect Egypt's natural resources.

External links

  • [1]
  • Pollution Egypt
  • Water Pollution in Egypt Reached Complex Stage. Egypt News.
  • [2]
  • Living with Pollution in Egypt A document about pollution in Egypt published in the American University in Cairo by Nicholas S. Hopkins and Sohair R. Mehanna. On SpringerLink
  • The Nile Basin Initiative
  • Egyptian Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs
  • Salini Impregilo
  • International River Foundation
  • On Toshka New Valley's mega-failure


  1. ^ Hassanein, Salah. "Air Pollution in Cairo - The Cost". Arab world books. 
  2. ^ AFP. "In Cairo the noise pollution can be a killer". Daily news. 
  3. ^ "State Information Services Sustainable Development & Water Resources in Egypt.". State Information Services Sustainable Development & Water Resources in Egypt. Retrieved 2013-04-05. 
  4. ^ "Under Mubarak, Morsi, or Sisi, Sinai Remains a Victim". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  5. ^ "Egypt Environmental Profile.". Egypt Environmental Profile. Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency. 
  6. ^ "Protected Areas of Egypt: Towards the Future" (PDF). Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency Nature Conservation Sector. June 2006. 
  7. ^ "Egypt International Programs". EPA United States Environmental Agency. 
  8. ^ Mitchell, Timothy. Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-politics, Modernity. Berkeley: University of California, 2002. Print.
  9. ^ Lewis, Martin W. "Egyptian Protests, Ethiopian Dams, and the Hydropolitics of the Nile Basin | GeoCurrents." GeoCurrents, 4 June 2013. Web.
  10. ^ "War And Water: Hydropolitics Propel Balkanization In Africa." AfricanGlobe, 6 Feb. 2014. Web.
  11. ^ "Hydropolitics Between Ethiopia and Egypt: A Historical Timeline". Tadias Magazine. June 18, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project. Salini Impregilo". Salini Impregilo. 
  13. ^ "Egypt Seeks to Halt Ethiopian Dam". Al-Monitor. February 2014. 
  14. ^ "Ethiopia PM Warns Egypt against Taking Dam File to UNSC-Updated". World Bulletin. 
  15. ^ "Ethiopia slams International Rivers organisation for supporting Egypt". Ahram Online. April 13, 2014. 
  16. ^ Lewis, Martin W. "Egyptian Protests, Ethiopian Dams, and the Hydropolitics of the Nile Basin | GeoCurrents." GeoCurrents, 4 June 2013. Web.
  17. ^ "Ethiopia completes 32% of Grand Renaissance Dam". Middle East Monitor. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  18. ^ Lewis, Martin W. "Egyptian Protests, Ethiopian Dams, and the Hydropolitics of the Nile Basin | GeoCurrents." GeoCurrents, 4 June 2013. Web.
  19. ^ "Egypt Seeks Saudi Help on Ethiopia Water Dispute". Al-Monitor. March 6, 2014. 
  20. ^ "State Information Services Sustainable Development & Water Resources in Egypt.". State Information Services Sustainable Development & Water Resources in Egypt. Retrieved 2013-04-05. 
  21. ^ "State Information Services Sustainable Development & Water Resources in Egypt.". State Information Services Sustainable Development & Water Resources in Egypt. Retrieved 2013-04-05. 
  22. ^ "State Information Services Sustainable Development & Water Resources in Egypt.". State Information Services Sustainable Development & Water Resources in Egypt. Retrieved 2013-04-05. 
  23. ^ Mitchell, Timothy. Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-politics, Modernity. Berkeley: University of California, 2002. Print.
  24. ^ Mitchell, Timothy. Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-politics, Modernity. Berkeley: University of California, 2002. Print.
  25. ^ "State Information Services Sustainable Development & Water Resources in Egypt.". State Information Services Sustainable Development & Water Resources in Egypt. Retrieved 2013-04-05. 
  26. ^ Mitchell, Timothy. Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-politics, Modernity. Berkeley: University of California, 2002. Print.
  27. ^ "Egypt – Environment". Encyclopedia of the Nations. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 
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