Egypt is marking World Environment Day this year with week-long events including a focus on solutions to plastic pollution as part of the Beat Plastic Pollution Campaign held worldwide on 5 June.
The Ministry of the Environment and the Egyptian Forum for Sustainable Development has launched a series of environmental and community initiatives as part of the Ninth National Week for Sustainable Development (NWSD) that runs this year from 1 to 8 June.
Minister of the Environment Yasmine Fouad said the initiatives, held under the auspices of the prime minister, were part of the Supporting Environmental Investment Campaign whose aim is to reinvigorate the momentum on environmental issues following the UN COP27 Climate Conference held in the Red Sea city of Sharm El-Sheikh in November 2022.
A main goal is to highlight the serious problem of plastic pollution worldwide and stress the importance of transitioning to a circular economy and to promote environmental investment to reduce the impact of plastic pollution, Fouad said.
Events to mark World Environment Day kicked off in Egypt on Saturday at the Wadi Degla Reserve, where a “Tales from the Locals” Campaign was launched to increase the involvement of local communities in protecting the environment and the country’s nature reserves.
The concept of developing nature reserves was introduced several years ago with the aim of providing activities and services for visitors while recognising the crucial role played by local communities in their management and development, Fouad said.
The “Tales from the Locals” campaign targets the members of 11 tribes residing in and around Egyptian nature reserves, she added. It is meant to showcase the stories of local residents and their lives, illustrating their connection to local nature reserves and showing how nature is an integral part of their lives.
It seeks to raise awareness about the need to protect the environment and develop pride in Egypt’s cultural and natural heritage. The campaign is part of the Eco-Campaign Egypt, which seeks to promote Egypt’s diverse nature reserves and draw attention to ecotourism.
Fouad emphasised the role of investment in achieving progress in sectors such as agriculture, energy, trade, and industry and underscored the importance of sustainability. Events sponsored by the ministry this year include visits to factories in Alexandria, Qena, and Suez to encourage them to transition to clean energy, particularly solar, and to promote the reuse of treated wastewater.
Despite the economic challenges facing the country, the government remains committed to work to protect the environment, Fouad said, highlighting the ongoing Prepare for Green campaign, launched in 2019, that addresses environmental issues and encourages a shift towards green practices.
She also referred to the 100 Million Trees campaign the ministry is working on in collaboration with the ministries of agriculture and local development, saying that it has planted four million trees thus far.
Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Egypt Alessandro Fracassetti said that “Tales from the Locals” was sending a powerful message this World Environment Day. He highlighted the strong partnership between the UNDP, the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Tourism in promoting sustainable tourism that supports a healthy environment by empowering local communities.
Fracassetti emphasised the importance of presenting the experiences and practices of local communities on the ground and strengthening their ability to formulate solutions that are socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.
This approach enables them to preserve their cultural heritage, customs, and traditions and involves them in decision-making process that affect their lives, leading to the sharing of benefits, he added.
He also highlighted the constructive partnership between the UNDP and the Ministry of Environment, which was playing a crucial role in managing natural resources based on the involvement of local communities. Local communities have been supported at the St Catherine’s Nature Reserve to enhance their role in preserving medicinal plants, for example, as well as at the Wadi Al-Gemal and Fayoum reserves.
Emad Adly, head of the National Forum for Sustainable Development, said a new initiative to set up local forums for sustainable development was being announced during the NWSD in partnership with the Arab Youth and Environment Association and with the support of the ministries of the environment and of social solidarity.
The initiative is meant to launch a nationwide dialogue to raise public awareness about the environment and integrate sustainability dimensions into local development strategies.
During this year’s World Environment Day, the Arab Youth and Environment Association also announced a new initiative called “No to Plastic” in collaboration with the Egyptian Forum for Sustainable Development.
It was launched under the auspices of the ministries of the environment, health, and population with the aim of raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution to public health and the environment and promoting sustainable consumer behaviour and habits.
It also aims to develop public awareness about the importance of phasing out the use of single-use plastic products while highlighting available alternatives.
Adly said that the initiative primarily targets university and school students, members of youth centres and clubs, the customers of malls and restaurants, and members of civil society organisations.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 1 June, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.