Al-Ahram Weekly Online   22 - 28 October 2009
Issue No. 969
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Addressing the problem

Cairo has always been wrestling with the problem of garbage. The problem of this litter-strewn metropolis has not only been how to remove garbage from its streets, but also how to ensure its safe disposal. Recently, the first part of the problem has been so severe that it commanded the attention of the President of the Republic. The second part is neither less severe nor less significant. Its solution lies mainly with Egypt's Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs (MSEA) whose efforts in this regard will be the main focus of this article.

To start with, it is important to note that with the current global onslaught of H1N1 virus (swine flu) Egypt is now, more than ever, in dire need, to develop an advanced integrated system for managing solid waste. In fact, the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs had already given sufficient consideration to the problem of solid garbage when it laid down a national strategy in 2000 for the management of solid waste. The strategy included a 10-year implementation plan which takes into consideration the fact that the total amount of solid waste in Egypt is 65-70 million tons per year. The implementation of a full-fledged strategy to address the problem of solid waste in Egypt requires addressing serious challenges and coming to terms with a number of important facts: First, the total amount of solid garbage generated on a daily basis in Egypt is 47,000 ton nationwide, of which the share of Greater Cairo governorate alone is 19,500 thousand tons. There are also additional amounts of solid wastes accumulated over the years and estimated at 22,098.936 tons, not to mention other solid wastes accumulated over the sides of irrigation and drainage canals. Second, the available collection and disposal services can only deal with 40% percent of the total amount of garbage in small cities and with 70% at best in big cities. This underscores the need to raise the efficiency of garbage collectors and those working in this field in general.

As part of its efforts to overcome this problem, MSEA, in collaboration with the Ministry of State for Military Production, and the Ministry of State for Local Development, has provided technical support to garbage recycling factories for the production of organic fertilizers and the constant upgrading of their capacities. There is currently an ongoing program for overhauling garbage recycling factories nationwide and introducing 19 plants for treating agricultural waste, especially rice straw.

The MSEA has also laid down a plan for removing the debris and solid waste accumulated over the years in cooperation with the Administration of Military Engineers and the concerned officials in Greater Cairo. Efforts in this regard included removing these debris during the period from 2004-2006 and transferring them to landfills within the borders of each governorate. The amount of these debris and solid waste has amounted to 15 million m3. In addition, financial support was offered to close some garbage dumping areas including 3 in the governorate of Sharqiya and one in the governorate of Gharbiya.

Other efforts in this connection included enhancing the collection and transport efficiency of each governorate. The MSEA brought in 5 tipping trucks with press, each with a capacity of 20 ton, as well as 23 tipping trucks to work as intermediary mobile station in addition to 2 loaders, 156 tractors and 50 trailers. The aim is raise the efficiency of garbage collection and transportation and to ensure that garbage accumulations will not recur.

As part of the State's plan to support the neediest villages, the MSEA has provided for the needs of 151 villages in 6 governorates (Sohag, Assiut, Minia, Sharqiya, Beheira, and Qena). The plan, which aims to support the integrated system for the management of solid waste, has reached a total cost of L.E. 99.59 million. It includes purchasing hygienic equipment, creating landfills for wastes, developing garbage recycling factories and producing organic fertilizers, in addition to establishing intermediary stations and sorting intermediary stations, planting trees and holding educational forums.

Governorates were handed over the equipment to be used for garbage collection and transportation, e.g. the governorate of Sohag received 10 trucks 5 ton each, 26 tractors and 44 trailers.

An integrated plan for managing solid waste was approved by the Minister of State for Local Development and presented to the Prime Minister for approval and securing the necessary funds for its implementation. It comprised a number of programs which included removing the solid waste accumulated over the years, raising the efficiency of garbage collection and transfer, establishing intermediary stations and recycling centres as well as creating hygienic landfills with a total cost of L.E. 2 billions.

The concerned administrative agency within each governorate was entrusted with the task of handling the daily amount of solid waste generated every day and combating the spread of haphazard dumping areas. While the local councils are responsible for ensuring that garbage is removed, the MSEA's role is to provide technical and financial support for the governorates.

Supporting the role of NGOs.

The MSEA has contributed to the capacity building of NGOs active in the area of managing household and agricultural solid waste. This included implementing 36 pilot projects with these NGOs, 24 of which were implemented in the governorate of Minia (16 for managing household solid waste and 8 for agricultural solid waste), 12 in the governorate of Ismailia (7 projects for managing household solid waste and 5 for agricultural solid waste).

A well-elaborated plan was devised by the MSEA in collaboration with the Ministries of Local Development and Military Production, represented in the military factories to produce production lines for recycling garbage and waste and to produce organic fertilizers, in addition to recovering other wastes such as plastic, glass and papers etc. Accordingly, 66 factories were established up to year 2005 for converting garbage into organic fertilizers.

Rehabilitating public dumping areas

- Landfills and dumping areas were rehabilitated in order to control the open sites for igniting fires.

- The haphazardly dumping area of Shaq El-Thuban, Cairo, was closed.

- El-Wafaa Wal Amal dumping area was provided with 2 loaders and 2 trucks and covered with 60,000 m3 of sand in addition to paving (levelling) an area of 110,000 m2.

- Shabramant dumping area: and area of 415,000 m2 was rehabilitated and an area of 40,000 m3 was covered with sand.

- El-Robeky dumping area: around 600 spots for ignition were filled and levelled, and an area of 10,300 m2 was paved.

During a visit to the complex of Waste Recycling and Landfills of Solid Waste in the 15 of May City in Helwan Governorate, Engineer Maged George, Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, emphasized that the process of recycling waste is a big industry that is based on scientific methods, and it needs serious cooperation from the local administrations in collecting garbage from the different districts as well as sound scientific management to achieve the maximum benefit from these materials. The compound serves the southern regions of Cairo and Helwan. The capacity of the landfill is 1000 ton daily and serves the districts of Sayeda Zeinab, Dar El Salam, El Basatin, Old Cairo and Manshiet Nasser in Cairo and El Maasara, Tora, Maadi, El Tibbin, the 15 May and the cities of Helwan in the Helwan Governorate.

The Minister declared that a contract has been signed with the World Bank to register the project as one of the clean development mechanisms (CDM). He also announced the establishment of the first unit of the hygienic landfills for burying hazardous materials which employs 285 workers. Two other factories were established for converting household garbage into organic fertilizers and recovering sorted items. The two factories recycle 80% of the municipal and household garbage received from the area of South Cairo which includes 11 inhabited districts. The project aims to receive 1500 tons of municipal garbage in addition to 500 tons of non-hazardous industrial waste everyday. The latter are collected and sorted manually and mechanically to separate paper, cardboard items, plastics and minerals and also to separate organic items and convert organic waste into organic fertilizers. Plastic items are to be recycled and hazardous items are to be buried in a hygienic way.

The Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs

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