Last week, the ministry issued a decision regulating the trade of coal and petroleum within Egyptian ports. The movement described the decision as a “crime against Egyptians” as well as future generations in terms of the damage on health, the environment, the economy and the future of tourism in Egypt.
The decision, published on August 24 in the official gazette, stipulated that “environmental sensitivity” of the ports should be taken into account in accordance with the 1994 Environment Law 4.
The campaign said that the standards and requirements set by the ministry for the unloading and storage of coal in ports do not guarantee an “effective” way to protect Egyptians’ health and environment. It added that applying such standards is also costly.
“Due to the absence of a competent executive power companies avoid paying these costs,” the statement read.
EAC also said the Environment Ministry is not qualified to monitor and control the implementation of the conditions on the long run. It also criticized the lack of specific penalties for those who violate them.
The decision also fails to preserve natural resources, the campaign said. For example, the plans stipulate using water to control coal dust. EAC pointed out that this would waste large quantities of water in a country that already suffers water shortage.
The campaigners also accused the ministry of serving the interests of foreign companies and personal interests, rather than Egyptians’ welfare.
The statement pointed to the harmful effects of coal such as the toxic substances it contains, including arsenic and mercury, which contaminate the atmosphere and harm the lungs, the heart and the nervous system. It also damages marine life, which directly affects tourism as well as fishing, the statement added.
“Since the Minister of Environment, or rather the ‘Minister of Coal,’ took office, the ministry has barely taken any legal or punitive measures against cement companies which import coal,” said EAC. “That’s why allowing the import of coal in Egypt’s ports is a serious crime against public health, the environment, Egypt’s economy – especially the tourism sector.”
The use of coal has been a topic of debate since the Cabinet approved its use for energy generation in Egypt, as part of the government’s attempt to solve the country’s energy crisis and its goal of adopting an energy mix that will ensure the country’s energy security.
Environmental and human rights activists have long lobbied for maintaining Egypt’s ban on coal, arguing that the long-term negative effects of coal would outweigh any advantages that might be gained by bringing the cheap, highly polluting fuel into the country.