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New petition challenges use of coal in Egyptian factories

'Egyptians Against Coal' want to reverse a cabinet decision to use coal in cement factories

Ayat Al-Tawy, Wednesday 21 May 2014
Coal
Coal shipments in Alexandria's Dekheila port (Photo courtesy of Egyptian Against Coal).
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An Egyptian grassroots campaign challenging a recent government decision allowing the use of coal in power generation has launched a protest petition as health concerns mount over the use of the highly polluting fuel.

Grappling with a growing energy crunch, Egypt's cabinet gave the go-ahead early in April for the use of coal in the energy-intensive cement industry after months of uncertainty within the government.

The move has sparked widespread concerns among environmentalists who say the use of the fuel poses grave health hazards in a country already suffering from high pollution.

Egyptians Against Coal say they aim to gather a large number of signatures ahead of a court hearing next week of a case brought by a local lawyer to overturn the cabinet  decision.

The campaign rejects the decision "for the serious environmental and health risks it entails and effect on the independence of Egypt's economy, while less harmful alternatives...are available," according to the petition text.

Egyptians Against Coal says businessmen would be the chief beneficiaries of a switch to coal, due to its low cost.

The campaign, launched late in 2013 by a group of academics, environmentalists, and economists, has drawn well over 162,000 followers on its official Facebook page. 

Egypt's natural gas, a major source of power generation, has been in short supply in recent years, leading to widespread blackouts.

Attempting to ease the energy crunch, the government has stopped supplying natural gas to factories, prompting cement companies to reiterate demands to allow coal instead.

The cement industry consumes some nine percent of the natural gas supplies in Egypt, after electricity and fertilisers respectively.

A government official said last month that environmental studies had been carried out and that plants would be using coal shortly.

 

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