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HomeBusinessImpACT International: Egypt's environmental deterioration affects economy

ImpACT International: Egypt’s environmental deterioration affects economy

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A recent report by ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies highlighted the cost of environmental deterioration in Egypt and the state’s responsibility towards protecting the environment.

The London-based human rights think-tank highlighted that Egypt is one of the leading examples of water and agricultural land scarcity, significantly affecting the state and businesses.

Although the African state depends mainly on the longest river in the world—the Nile, Egypt still faces a massive water deficit, about 7 billion cubic metres.

ImpACT International said that the Egyptian authorities should not only consider the water scarcity in the country as a security threat but rather “a crisis that affects all sectors of Egypt’s society, specifically affecting the quality of life of civilians and businesses.”

It added that the climate would get drier with time, and heat waves will hit the country more rapidly, which will undoubtedly cause economic and environmental crises. Hence, the state and businesses across the country must recognize the importance of water conversation in their daily production methods.

Air Pollution

The report highlighted that air pollution in the country, especially the capital Cairo, is one
of the most severe environmental problems. Air pollution accumulates through different
means, including factories, industries and most importantly, transport emissions.

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

“with a pollution index of 91.45. The air quality is recorded to vary 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.”

One of the main reasons for the recent rise to such levels of air pollution we see in 2021 is
possibly the large cement and industrial industries that hold tiny regard for the impact of
their production methods. With such industrial negligence, industries are key actors in
destroying Egypt’s ecological system without remorse.

Environmental impact of cement factories 

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. Over
the past three years, the Egyptian cement production capacity rose from an annual 85
million to 87 million tonnes. 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. This will not be simple
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.

On March 21, 2018, a final court ruling by the Dekheila Appellate Misdemeanor Court found
that the Alexandria Portland Cement factory, owned by Titan Multinational Corporation, had
been found guilty of causing environmental pollution by violating the right to health of the
neighbouring community. The impact of cement production was emphasised by the
residents of Wadi al-Qamar, in western Alexandria who accused the Alexandria Portland
Cement factory of causing grave harm to their health as a result of their emissions.

The results of such heavy production could be seen on the rooftop of homes where the
accumulation of cement dust can be seen. Subsequently, through a court case, the cement
factory was charged for failure to take measures to prevent atmospheric emissions., and
failing to take appropriate measures to the disposal of hazardous waste.

It is commonly difficult to provide physical evidence of the environmental violations caused
by cement factories; companies such as Titan typically submit legal documents that
demonstrate their compliance with the laws on pollution and water use standards. Yet,
these documents often contradict the evidence and experiences experienced by the
neighbouring community.

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.

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

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.

Egypt Vision 2030

Egypt Vision 2030, launched in 2016 stands as a national plan presented under President
Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. This vision has eight main agendas representing separate goals to be
met by 2030. This vision is a step in the right direction for Egypt’s reform policies. Yet, with
a population of 104,365,057 million and an annual growth rate of approximately 2%,
solutions to environmental decay and human development must be far more prominent.
This state-initiated agenda must be monitored with great care and managed carefully to
allow the country to enjoy the fruits of its long-term success.

One of the goals addresses the environment, aiming to address issues caused by natural or
man-made disasters; and, to encourage innovation and increase know-how that will enable
businesses to prosper through environmental hardships.  It aims to identfy the main causes
of the environmental risks facing Egypt.  The ultimate goal of this project is to reduce air
pollution by 50% by the year 2030.

The following project reassures us that Egypt is taking the correct steps to transition to an
environmentally friendly economy built from more sustainable, inclusive and resilient
industries. Yet, for this to work businesses must all be on board with the broader picture,
and to ensure that the lives of all Egyptians are taken into consideration.

Greater Cairo Pollution Management and Climate Change Project 

The urgency of the environmental situation in Egypt, specifically Cairo, was reinforced at
the end of 2020 with a loan of $200 million by The World Bank towards the reduction of air
pollution in Greater Cairo, through reduction of industrial emissions and to address issues
arising from climate change.

This project aims to include all sectors of the Egyptian economy, both state owned and
private sector to reach defined goals by the closing date of December 31st, 2026. This
project works hand in hand with Egypt’s Sustainable Development Strategy entitled Egypt Vision 2030.

According to the World Bank The Greater Cairo Pollution Management and Climate Change Project aims to:
  1. Modernise the country’s air quality management system whilst strengthening the
    population of Greater Cairo’s ability to adapt to high pollution disasters or events, all of
    which would be caused as an effect of high climate temperatures and increased levels of
    pollution emissions.
  2. Implement activities for the communities to undergo behavioural change and service
    providers to ensure citizens and businesses engage actively in the aims and strategies of the project.
  3. Contribute to the reduction of vehicle emissions by supporting the increased use of
    electronic buses and other industrial services under the public sector. In this light, the
    state will assess the technical and financial ability to engage in such an aim.

4.Support the solid waste management methods in Great Cairo, including a major project
to construct an integrated waste management facility at the 10th of Ramadan City,
following the closure and reestablishing of the Abou-Zaabal dumpsite and the increased regulatory framework for waste management in the city.


In the coming years, climate change and its environmental implications will have
detrimental effects on businesses across the globe, yet many companies and states have
not yet addressed the issues with the degree of urgency it requires.

Overarchingly, it is essential for the Egyptian economy and the development of its human
capital that major initiatives such as Egypt Vision 2030 and the Greater Cairo Pollution
Management project are seen through, leading to a cleaner Egypt, higher productivity,
increased use of human capital and economic prosperity.

For this reason, the following suggestions should assist companies, and the state, in playing their respective roles in their implementation.

Businesses should:

1.Choose to work with suppliers who engage in sustainable practices

Businesses will always have a wide selection of suppliers across the globe with whom they may choose to work. However, there are issue that lie within those businesses in the supply chain that may have poor environmental and labour practices.

Businesses should engage in extensive research on the policies of their chosen suppliers to mitigate the effects of their production practices. The suppliers should have a good record of environmental practice and demonstrate their willingness to improve their environmental policies. 

  1. Ask their suppliers to adopt more sustainable practices or, in turn, change to more
    sustainable and environmentally-friendly suppliers.
  2. Use green energy: renewable energy varieties such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric
    power can reduce your office’s carbon footprint.
  3. Conduct regular self-assessment to find out how well their business prevents pollution in their operations, to ensure over time, an eco-friendly performance. Give awards to employees who reduce emissions in their shifts.
  4. Identify raw materials that have the potential to become environmentally toxic and where possible replace them with cleaner, non-toxic raw materials.
  5. Use modern technologies that provide industrial factories and power plants with cleaner options for filtering emissions. Wet scrubbers clean particulates and can, with catalysts, remove certain chemical contaminants.
  6. Hire a professional waste management business that is competent and qualified in the sector

Businesses should conduct regular self-assessment to find out how well their business
prevents pollution in their operations

  1. Educate staff and the business administration on the fundamentals of environmental
    protection to ensure that the policies implemented are understood and followed by all
    members of staff.

In this sense, staff must have an understanding of the composition of the dust and
pollutants, their relationship to the production process. Ultimately, this understanding will
contribute to broader understanding of the primary sources of pollution.

Through this, staff members, businesses and the wider community will feel a sense of inclusivity and responsibility.
  1. 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
  2. Ensure that the most important regulations and policies of environmental monitoring are
    accessible by all businesses, foreign investors and state industries. These can come in
    the shape of community and business guidelines which are intended to enable a safe
    working environment.
  3. Follow state regulations on industrial production and ensure that they comply with
    international health and safety standards.
  4. Implement improved electrostatic precipitators. These are most commonly used in the
    cement plants in Egypt to filter the dust from atmospheric.
  5. Implement real-time monitoring of dust emissions.  As dust is the main pollutant in
    cement factories in Egypt, real-time monitoring should ensure that all the plants of the
    cement companies are constantly regulated and updated.

Report summary 

  • The United Nations estimated that by 2025 Egypt could run out of water.
  • Egypt has been facing an annual water deficit of around 7 billion cubic metres, with only
    20 cubic metres of internal renewable freshwater per person remaining available.
  • The government’s goal for the ending of this project is to reduce air pollution by 50% by
    the year 2030.
  • According to the world pollution index as of mid 2021, Cairo has been ranked as the
    13th most polluted city in the world, with a pollution index of 91.45.
  • Seeing as 35% of the country’s underground water leaks, Egypt’s irrigation methods are
    heavily wasting the country’s natural water resources.
  • 98.4 million Egyptians are currently living under the water poverty line by an alarming
    rate of 50%, which is below the internationally acceptable line of 1,000 m3.
  • According to the world bank, 19,200 people died prematurely and over 3 billion days

    were lived with illness in Egypt in 2017 as a result of ambient PM2.5 air pollution in
    Greater Cairo, and inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene in all of Egypt. The
    estimated cost of these health effects was equivalent to 2.5% of Egypt’s GDP in 2016/17.

  • The cost of particulate matter air pollution produced from factories is the highest in Greater Cairo, amounting to 47 billion Egyptian Lera (LE), equivalent to 1.35% of GDP.
  • The cost of unsanitary drinking water and hygiene nationwide is LE 39 billion, equivalent to 1.15%.
  • The population is predicted to reach 110 million by 2025.

















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