Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
2 - 8 December 1999
Issue No. 458
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

Front Page

Green technology

By Mahmoud Bakr

Nadia Makram-EbeidSalah Zaki, a renowned journalist and radio and television broadcaster, was killed this week in a tragic car accident. A recently concluded international environment conference had as its slogan, "We work for the present with our eyes set on the future," an apt summary of the debate witnessed within.

Under the auspices of Prime Minister Atef Ebeid, the State Ministry for the Environment and the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) co-organised the conference, dubbed "Environmental Management and Technologies: Environment 99" from 24 to 26 November. In 22 sessions, participants reviewed 120 working papers on ways of maintaining natural resources, protecting natural wealth against depletion and adopting integrated environment management systems and techniques. A total of 600 participants from 22 countries in the Arab world, North America, Europe, Asia and Africa participated.

An accompanying exhibit showcased state-of-the-art technologies provided by 50 companies worldwide, including Egypt, to address sources of industrial pollution and offer devices to clean up the air and soil.

Five workshops discussed international cooperation, opportunities for environmental investments, features of the Egyptian environmental market, public and private sector partnership and mechanisms for its activation, and environment-friendly technologies.

State Minister for the Environment Nadia Makram-Ebeid noted the challenge posed by environment protection to the world, particularly developing countries aspiring to a better standard of living. "To fulfill such an aspiration, we must find urgent and sustainable solutions to the pressing environmental issues and, at the same time, realise a balance between solutions on the one hand and development projects and programmes on the other, by defining and integrating roles," Makram-Ebeid said. She added that the domestic market showed promise in green technology.

Mustafa Tolba, the world renowned environmentalist, drew attention to Egypt's need for environmental technology and for offering fellowships to produce "direly needed cadres". Tolba blamed unnamed developed countries for charging Egypt with abusive exploitation of its resources. Such accusations, he said, were intended to put pressure on Egypt, either to prolong its dependence on foreign expertise and equipment or to reduce aid to the country.

Tolba urged greater transparency on the part of both donors and recipients of aid, and affirmed that political considerations were very much at play in determining the targeted aid beneficiaries as well as the volume of aid.

EEAA Executive Director Ibrahim Abdel-Gelil said the agency was currently implementing 25 projects in various fields related to the environment. Other initiatives include protecting the Nile by establishing five stations for treating waste water from Nile cruisers and controlling the flow of hazardous material into the river. They also include a programme to provide expert advice to industrial firms on adjusting their activities in step with the requirements of the law; to provide soft loan packages in cooperation with several international financing institutions and Egyptian banks, in addition to an environment monitoring programme that plans to establish a network of nearly 40 stations to check the quality of air throughout the country. Eighty-four monitoring sites to test water quality along Egypt's coastline are also in the pipeline.

Fatma El-Gohari, director of the working group for the national environmental action plan, said the 1990s had witnessed a turning point in the introduction of effective environment management in this country. The state, she said, has allocated in its current five-year economic development plan LE26.44 billion to activities related to the protection of the environment in the production and service sectors. A total of LE4.7 billion has been allocated to the environment in the 1998/99 budget.

In his paper, Ismail Serageddin, vice president of the World Bank, said that more than 1.4 billion people worldwide have no clean water to drink, 1.3 billion breathe polluted air and 700 million children breathe air tainted with tobacco smoke.

He added that more than 1.3 billion survive on less than one dollar a day, which highlights the need to realise food security. The shortage of food supplies reflects the challenge posed by population growth which, Serageddin said, should be offset by a compatible growth of production.

Serageddin also cautioned against deforestation which, he said, results in environmental imbalances, and against industrial pollutants which degrade the soil.

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