A cleaner Giza?
A broken trash can in the street surrounded by heaps of garbage and swarms of flies. Sadly, in Giza, it is a common sight. Disposing of the rubbish produced by a governorate containing more than three million citizens is never going to be an easy task. Lately, though, residents in neighbourhoods across Giza have been complaining that they are drowning in a sea of garbage. A casual visit to the area is sufficient to confirm that solid waste management in Giza is close to crisis.
Fatima Mohamed, a Mohandessin resident for five decades, is appalled by the state of the streets.
"Once it was assumed that only shantytowns suffered from this problem. Now, though, it's happening across the city, regardless of whether districts are high or low income. Everyone is complaining. There are far more flies than the usual," she said.
Mohamed says things have got worse in the last two years. Now, she complains, residents pay for the zabbal (traditional garbage collector) to collect the garbage, through the normal door-to door service, and also pay cleaning fees on their electricity bills. "I don't mind paying both fees, but I want a better service," she said.
Wafaa Mahmoud, resident of the Giza district Bin Al-Sarayat, believes that public attitudes are making a bad situation worse. "When people can't find a rubbish can, or it's full, they just dump their garbage in the street," she says. There must be more trash cans provided, she believes, but also says there is a pressing need for public awareness campaigns.
The problems, though, are not simply the result of poor service and negative public attitudes. Rather, they are a symptom of the resurfacing of ongoing problems between the Giza Cleaning and Beautification Authority (GCBA) and the Italian IES Company contracted to clean Mohandessin, Doqqi and northern Giza.
IES is one of a number of foreign companies hired by the government -- some contracts run for 15 years -- to clean up parts of the city, collecting an average of 1,200 to 1,300 tonnes of garbage daily. It has been rumoured that IES workers are on strike, something IES General Manager Ahmed Nabil denies.
"We are working at full capacity, 24/7, but there have been a number of problems affecting the service and money is on top of them."
According to the contract signed with the governorate IES should receive LE36 million annually for its services. Yet the GCBA, which supervises the work, fines the company when it does not approve of the service it is offering, deducting the fines from IES's fees.
Nabil explains that in 2006 IES reached an agreement with GCBA under which the governorate would return LE38 million to IES.
"When we are fined excessively -- sometimes the fines exceed the original fees -- we find we are unable to pay our employees, let alone maintain our equipment," says Nabil. "Somehow we seem always to end up receiving just LE20 million of the original LE36 million we are supposed to receive annually."
Other hurdles stand in the way of a cleaner Giza, not least the mass slaughter of Egypt's pig population, which used to consume vast quantities of organic waste.
IES was given two composite plants by the government to operate when it signed its initial contract but they can process only 240 tonnes of rubbish per day when operating at full capacity. And after almost five years since the signing of contracts, Giza governorate has yet to allocate IES the landfill sites stipulated in the contract.
"There was a disagreement between several authorities on the first designated landfill site," says Nabil. "The land fell under the jurisdiction of the antiquities authority." As a result IES has been using the GCBA old landfill in Shabramant.
Medical waste is currently disposed of in the Qasr Al-Aini incinerator. Although IES owns vehicles equipped to carry and dispose of medical waste, lack of any designated landfill site obliges them to pay to use the hospital's incinerator.
"It is costing us more because now organic waste is not separated from medical. We end up burning more and paying more," complains Nabil.
Nabil stresses that IES is a public service provider and as such, even though GCBA is not abiding by the contract, it will continue to operate to the best of its ability.
The GCBA was not available for comment when contacted by Al-Ahram Weekly. According to Nabil, despite the financial disagreements Giza's governor is keen on solving the problems and talks are ongoing between the company and the governorate to reach a solution.