Tag Archives: Egypt

Waste not: Egypt’s refuse collectors regain role at heart of Cairo society

Waste not: Egypt’s refuse collectors regain role at heart of Cairo society | Source/complete article: The Guardian, March 27 2014 |

Excerpts – Zabaleen waste pickers are finally being re-integrated into the city’s services, a decade after they were sidelined.

A family at work in the Mokattam area of the Egyptian capital Cairo, where zabaleen collect, separate, sell or reuse rubbish. Photograph: Bernat Armangue/AP

A family at work in the Mokattam area of the Egyptian capital Cairo, where zabaleen collect, separate, sell or reuse rubbish. Photograph: Bernat Armangue/AP

For the waste pickers that have traditionally made a living sifting through the mountain of discarded litter that blights the streets of Cairo, there has been scant cause for celebration these past 10 years. Marginalised by a 2004 Mubarak goverment directive that placed household waste collection in the hands of multinationals, their existence has been one of ever increasing struggle for steadily declining return.

But change is afoot. Government acceptance that the corporatisation of waste disposal in Egypt‘s capital has been a resounding failure has paved the way for the formal integration of the zabaleen – who, for more than half a century, went door to door gathering the vast majority of household waste in Cairo – into the city’s official refuse collection system.

For a community that has served Cairo well, the government’s U-turn offers a deserved chance to change their lives for the better. Before 2004, the zabaleen would take the rubbish they collected back to their homes on the edge of the city, sort through it, and make a living from selling the salvaged materials to factories and wholesalers. The remaining organic waste would be fed to their pigs, whose meat also brought them a steady income.

But 10 years ago, this informal arrangement came to an abrupt end when the Mubarak government contracted four corporate firms to do the work instead – cutting the 65,000 zabaleen out of the process, and wrecking their collective livelihood. The aim was to professionalise the capital’s waste management.

Government officials now admit that approach was flawed from the start, and for the first time are starting to make the zabaleen‘s role official, giving them uniforms and vehicles.

“The others have failed, be they the government or the foreign companies, and now [the zabaleen] should get a turn, having been sidelined for so long,” said Laila Iskandar, Egypt’s environment minister, who has prioritised the issue since her appointment in July. “They are the people who have the longest experience in refuse collection.”

New study analyzes options for wastewater treatment in Lower Egypt

New study analyzes options for wastewater treatment in Lower Egypt

Source: Daily News Egypt – February 24, 2012

CAIRO: Egypt has made good progress towards increasing access to sanitation in urban areas but access to waste water treatment in rural areas lags far behind, a recent study showed.

The World Bank and the University of Leeds launched a new study in Cairo that analyzed the cost-effectiveness of a range of investment options for wastewater treatment in terms of the relative health benefits these are likely to generate for downstream farmers and consumers.

The study [1], conducted by the University of Leeds, UK, in partnership with the World Bank and the Holding Company for Water and Waste Water, discussed the benefits of differing strategies for Wastewater Management in Lower Egypt using Quantitative Microbial Risk Analysis (QMRA).

“The study, which we are presenting today, discusses the selection of efficient and effective treatment technologies and would be a useful input to policy makers in the sanitation and health sectors in Egypt,” said David Craig, the World Bank Country Director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti.

Rates of sewerage connection in rural Egypt remained at only 18 percent in 2008. There is substantial evidence that informal discharges of untreated domestic wastewater in agricultural channels is widespread – and it is not surprising given the lack of facilities for collection and safe disposal of wastewater from household vaults.

The high rate of informal reuse of agricultural drainage water means that these wastewater discharges have a significant negative health impact. Domestic waste has significant potential as an input to agriculture and can be safely used as fertilizer if appropriately treated and regulated.

Many technologies exist, and indeed, simple improvements to existing domestic sanitary facilities could have significant benefits at a relatively low cost. The challenge is to work out what investment strategies make the most sense in terms of delivering a good service to citizens, protecting health and promoting agricultural efficiencies at the most efficient price.

The World Bank has been supporting Egypt’s reforms in the water supply and sanitation sector and continues to support improved access to sustainable rural sanitation services in Egypt, given its strong linkages to health and environment.

[1] Evans, B. and Iyer, P., 2012. Estimating relative benefits of differing strategies for management of wastewater in Lower Egypt using quantitative microbial risk analysis (QMRA). Washington, DC, World Bank Water Partnership Program, World Bank. viii, 36 p. Download report

Egypt, Cairo: the revolution’s toilets, Tahrir Square

Even revolutionaries have to go the toilet. This picture shows the mundane side of life at Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, which was the media focal point for anti-Mubarak protesters during 18 days of demonstrations. This is one of a series of pictures that BBC’s Yolande Knell took during a tour of the area. She writes:

The camp toilets are here in a shed formerly used by construction workers near the Egyptian Museum. After 18 days, the smell is quite incredible.

View the full pictorial display of the camp on the BBC web site (11 Feb 2011).

Egypt: fishing in the sewer

Pollution and overfishing have decimated Nile fish stocks.

The vast majority of Egypt’s 80 million inhabitants live along the banks of the Nile. The river, which enters the country near the southern city of Aswan, flows 1,300 kilometres before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria.

“You can drink the Nile near Aswan, but by the time the water reaches Cairo it is heavily polluted,” says Sherif Sadek, a former fisheries official. “Some species could not tolerate the polluted water and are no longer found in the river.”

A report issued by Egypt’s environment ministry in September [2009] identified three main sources of Nile pollution as untreated sewage, agricultural drainage, and industrial effluents. It said the country produces an estimated 12 million cubic metres of wastewater a day, of which a large portion is discharged into the Nile.

“Domestic wastewater collected from approximately 5,000 basins in small remote villages (is) directly discharged into agricultural drains without treatment, in addition to the untreated or secondary treated sewage from sanitation networks of major cities,” the report says.

Agricultural run-off, including an unspecified amount of fertilisers and pesticides, enters the Nile through 75 major drainages, according to the report. Over 100 industrial complexes discharge a total of four billion cubic metres of effluents into the river each year. Other sources of pollution include houseboats and thousands of motorised river vessels.

While authorities who monitor the river insist that pollution levels are within permissible limits, many Egyptians are concerned about the effect of contaminants on the river’s fish.

“The river is basically Egypt’s sewer and I wouldn’t eat anything living in it,” says Mona Radwan, a marketing agent who lives in an upscale Cairo neighbourhood. “Many Egyptians eat fish from the Nile because they are too poor to afford meat or chicken.”

Experts say it is important to differentiate between organic and inorganic pollutants.

“With human waste, the principal concern is parasite and disease cycles, but I don’t think there’s much evidence to show that fish feeding (on sewage) pose a risk to human health, particularly if the fish are cooked properly before they are eaten,” says Malcolm Beveridge of the Malaysia-based WorldFish Centre. “A bigger concern might be industrial and agricultural wastes, especially heavy metals and toxic pesticides.”

Among the highest at risk are the 15,000 fishermen who drink, bathe in, and eat fish from the Nile. Many suffer from kidney problems, skin irritations and bilharzia, a water-borne parasite.

The consensus among fishermen is that the Nile’s fish stocks are declining. Officials, however, insist the river’s productivity is higher than ever. They argue that the perception of a declining fish population is due to the increasing number of fishers competing for resources, and localised pockets of overfishing near urban centres.

Beveridge says the Nile’s fish population declined sharply after completion of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, but has rebounded in recent years.

“Studies have shown that fish production collapsed in the second half of the 1960s, because the dam trapped organically rich sediment that the delta, and indeed large areas of the eastern Mediterranean, were dependent upon for fish productivity,” he told IPS.

“But then something very peculiar happened. In the 1980s fish production began to increase again, and today yields are higher than they were before the high dam’s construction.”

A team of U.S. and Egyptian researchers found that the massive dumping of sewage and fertilisers into the river had increased concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous in the water, stimulating fish growth. In a study published last January in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they concluded that these anthropogenic nutrients had offset the river’s organic nutrient loss, contributing to a three-fold increase in fish landings over pre- dam levels.

While the research was based on fisheries of the Nile delta’s coastal waters, its conclusions have been extrapolated to the river itself. Artificial nutrient enrichment may have inadvertently reversed declining fish stocks, but the study’s authors warn that pollution is not a solution.

“Some preliminary evidence indicates that increasing nutrient loads may stimulate (fish) landings up to a point, beyond which the fisheries decline due to poor water quality or overfishing,” they say.

Source: Cam McGrath, IPS, 31 Dec 2009

Right to sanitation: UN independent expert’s report to be presented in September

Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque

Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque

A report outlining the human rights obligations related to sanitation will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2009. Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque wrote the report in July as part of her duties as Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

In her report De Albuquerque supports the recognition of sanitation as a distinct right. “The inextricable links between sanitation and so many human rights mean that international human rights law requires States to ensure access to sanitation that is safe, hygienic, secure, affordable, socially and culturally acceptable, provides privacy and ensures dignity in a non discriminatory manner”, she concludes. “However, only looking at sanitation through the lens of other human rights does not do justice to its special nature, and its importance for living a dignified life”, she adds.

In 2009, Ms. De Albuquerque has chosen to focus on the human rights obligations related to sanitation. She held an expert consultation, and a public consultation, to inform her work on this issue in April. As a follow up to that meeting the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) published a position statement in which they voiced their support for the recognition of “sanitation as a stand alone right apart from the right to water.”

In March and June2009, Catarina de Albuquerque visited Costa Rica and Egypt respectively, to assess the how these countries were implementing their human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Ms de Albuquerque encourage the Egyptian Government in particular to give priority to sanitation in all unserved, or underserved areas, including rural areas as well as informal settlements. She welcomed the government’s the rural sanitation strategy which calls for a 20 billion Egyptian pounds (approximately 4 billion US dollars) investment in rural sanitation.

EGYPT: Lack of modern sanitation systems threatens groundwater, health

CAIRO, 3 March 2008 (IRIN) – Nearly all Egyptians – 98 percent of the population – have access to piped water but only some have proper sanitation facilities. Not much attention has been paid to the effective and safe disposal of sewage, especially in rural areas, say specialists.

In rural areas – deserts and agricultural areas alike – only 58 percent of inhabitants have access to any kind of sanitation, said Rania El-Essawi, water, environment and sanitation officer at the Cairo office of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Most rural sanitation is primitive, and does not involve a proper sewage system. 

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