Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
6 - 12 July 2000
Issue No. 489
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

 
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Chasing away the cloud

By Mahmoud Bakr

Nadia Makram EbeidIN AN EFFORT to prevent the return of the "black cloud" which hovered over Cairo last summer and spewed soot over large parts of the capital, state minister for environmental affairs Nadia Makram Ebeid made a surprise field visit on Saturday to areas peppered with metal-smelting foundries in Giza.

Ebeid, accompanied by environmental experts, ordered the closure of 15 foundries in Al-Kom Al-Ahmar and Saqil in Imbaba on grounds they were neither licensed nor environment-friendly. She also issued warnings to 21 other foundries, giving them a 60-day grace period to re-adjust and comply with environmental regulations or face a similar fate.

"All sources of pollution are being followed up in order to minimise air pollution and maximise the application of the law against offenders," Ebeid said. "Violations" at these foundries were blatant, she said, because they continue to use fuel oil and coal. And since they are located in residential and agricultural areas, "they greatly harm inhabitants."

Working conditions at these foundries are abysmal, according to Ebeid, since no measures are taken to protect workers against pollution. They do not keep environmental logs and dispose of untreated waste in public sewers.

Ebeid said that foundry chimneys also breach the legal heights specified by the Environment Law, which range from 18 to 36 metres. The chimneys should also be at least three metres higher than the closest residential building.

She stressed that specialised committees in charge of inspecting polluting establishments will continue their work "in order to eliminate all pollutants of Cairo air" in a bid to eliminate pollutants at the source.

Ebeid said the "ghost of the black cloud will continue to haunt us as long as unauthorised polluting activities and other emissions from large, medium and small industries continue. She said car exhaust fumes emitted by some two million vehicles, as well as dust, are also serious pollutants. Half of these vehicles are in Cairo alone -- "a governorate with a capacity for only 500,000 vehicles." The burning of garbage and agricultural waste was another reason for the cloud, she added.

At a recent meeting of provincial governors it was decided that farmers, instead of burning rice straw, should be encouraged to bury the crop under the ground instead, the minister added.

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