29 Apr. - 5 May 1999
Issue No. 427
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Pushing lead out of CairoThe owner of the largest lead smelter company in Egypt has agreed to install new technology in a new plant in a move that will significantly reduce dangerous lead pollution in Greater Cairo, reports Shaimaa Labib.
The Governor of Qalyubiya Ahmed Sabry El-Beily and Sayed Awadallah, the owner of the Smelting, Refining and Manufacturing of Lead Pipes Company, a private company, signed an agreement which will cut the lead content in the air.
Under the accord, three lead smelters in Shubra Al-Kheima will be shut down and relocated to a new, modern smelter facility in Abu Zaabal, an industrial site outside Cairo, within two years.
The agreement will also require the private firm to use up-to-date, environment-friendly technology and emission control systems in the new facility to reduce lead pollution.
El-Beily said, "Air pollution is a major environmental problem which jeopardises Egypt's economic development and its citizens' health."
This agreement comes within the framework of the Cairo Air Improvement Project (CAIP) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and implemented by the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) and the Organisation for Energy Planning (OEP).
CAIP aims to reduce the concentration of airborne lead in and near lead smelters which have been identified as a major source of lead pollution affecting citizens. Currently lead emissions from smelters are in excess of the maximum permissible limits defined by the Egyptian environmental law. High lead concentration in the blood causes poisoning which can lead to high blood pressure, kidney problems and in extreme situations, infertility. Also, airborne lead can cause reduced IQ levels and learning disabilities in children.
Lead smelters in the Greater Cairo area produce 40,000 to 55,000 tons of lead annually. Of this, 86 per cent is produced by the private sector and 14 per cent by the public sector. EEAA, with support from USAID, developed the Lead Smelter Action Plan as part of an overall Lead Exposure Abatement Plan that aims at relocating and upgrading lead smelters to reduce lead emissions in Greater Cairo. The role of CAIP will be to assist the public and private sectors to implement the action plan through the provision of modern technology designs, emission control systems and technical assistance. This assistance will be used to train workers in lead smelters in the use of new technology and by the EEAA in monitoring lead emissions.
CAIP will also monitor emissions at lead smelters to assure their continued compliance with Egyptian environmental laws. It is expected that within five years, all lead smelters will have been relocated away from densely populated areas.
Ibrahim Abdel-Gelil, chairman of the EEAA, said, "The signing of this agreement reveals the Egyptian government's intent to combat the problems of industrial pollution and make industrial companies more compliant with environmental laws."
According to Mark Silverman, associate director of the environment and infrastructure department at the USAID, "We intend to help the private lead smelter company design a new plant facility which meets [the standards in] Egyptian environmental law and is in accordance with internationally accepted environmental standards."
The signing of this agreement is a very important step forward in helping to address the lead pollution problem in Greater Cairo, Silverman added.
He argued that there is a lot to be done to address industrial pollution problems. "In that regard, I believe that the future is not in pollution abatement -- solving the pollution problems that industry is causing today -- but rather in pollution prevention which is aimed at preventing the problems from happening tomorrow. Also, pollution prevention is more cost effective since resolving the problem is more costly than trying to prevent it from the beginning," Silverman said.
Silverman expects in the near future the signing of a $170 million environmental policy programme between the Egyptian government and the USAID that aims at improving the Egyptian environment, promoting energy efficiency, addressing industrial pollution problems and better utilising natural resources.