Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1149, 23 - 29 May 2013
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1149, 23 - 29 May 2013

Ahram Weekly

Going green

From Hurghada Mahmoud Bakr reports on attempts to boost Egypt’s green economy

Al-Ahram Weekly

As it picks up speed across the world, the green economy is beginning to take tentative steps in this part of the world. It is being addressed in Arab summits, taken seriously by businessmen, and generally billed as the solution to some of our most persistent problems, especially pollution and unemployment.

No wonder, then, that clean production, renewable energy, recycling, and sustainable use of organic resources kept representatives of 14 Arab and African countries busy for three days in meetings held in Hurghada from 12-14 May and organised by the Arab Union for Youth and Environment (AUYE), the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO), the Red Sea governorate, and the Ministry of State of Environmental Affairs (MOEA).

Speaking at the conference, Khaled Fahmi, minister of state for environmental affairs, said that what matters most in green economy is a comprehensive approach to natural resources that combines profit with sustainability.

Fahmi said municipal and solid refuse can be turned into energy, biogas or solid fuel that can be used in cement and ceramics factories. The MOEA is currently assessing 22 proposed locations for pilot projects in this field. The budget set aside for this endeavour, the minister noted, exceeds the total for all the projects carried out by the MOEA in the previous two years. The MEOA already has more than 18 offers form local and international companies to participate in recycling projects in Egypt.

According to Fahmi, there are 124 recycling associations operating in 14 governorates in Egypt, and the ministry is thinking of ways to help them expand their business.

Until recently, Fahmi said, natural protectorates were only used for environmental tourism. Today, the MOEA is using the ideas of its young experts working in the protectorates to design substantial projects for geological and fossil research. Egypt is also thinking of using its medical herbs as a launching pad for pharmaceutical and research facilities. The MOEA is currently drawing up a plan to run the protectorates into self-financing entities.

Magdi Allam, secretary-general of the Arab Environmental Experts Association, said the green economy aims to strike a balance between nature and man. Allam announced plans to create the Arab Council for Green Economy, a group that will include 30 Arab business leaders led by Mohamed Farid Khamis.

Forestation, recycling, and bio-fuel production can help the economy generate jobs. Allam said that for every feddan of forestation, 25 jobs can be created; and for every tonne of solid refuse, 15 jobs can result.

There is no lack of new ideas to explore in this growing field, Allam stated. Some 230 scientific papers have been written about investment green economy in the last two years alone. Allam added that investment projects adopting green economy ideas should receive preferential tax treatment and easy loans.

And the young have a pivotal role to play in green economy, environmental projects, and sustainable development, said ISESCO representative Abdel-Wareth Sarhan. Sarhan called on Arab countries to take serious measures to encourage investment in bio-fuel.

According to Sarhan, the fourth Arab Development Report on Environment, released in October 2012, shows that the contribution of Arab countries in green economy is as low as one per cent of the world’s total. Although Arab countries have taken daring steps towards economic development, they are still to fully address the three pillars of green economy: economic considerations, social justice and sustainability.

The report notes that 70 million Arabs live under the poverty line and that 45 million of those lack the minimum of health services. The cost of environmental deterioration in Arab countries is estimated at $100 billion annually, nearly five per cent of the region’s GDP, Sarhan said.

Hassan Abaza, an economic expert with the World Bank, urged the creation of a centre for green economy in the region to coordinate policy and training and exchange expertise among existing projects.

But all government departments need to work together to promote green economy, and thus “help maintain our natural heritage and stimulate the economy,” said Mamdouh Rashwan, chief of the Arab Union for Youth and Environment.

And there are plenty of ideas to go around. According to Sayed Khalifa, from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Central Forestation Department, Egypt currently has about 15,000 feddans in the desert planted with trees that survive on sewage water. The seven billion cubic metres of sewage water Egypt produces per year can be used to plant nearly one million feddans of forest that be used for the production of lumber, he stated.

 

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