Damiettans escalate protests against environmentally questionable plant after death of one demonstrator

Sherif Tarek , Tuesday 15 Nov 2011

Protesters against an environmentally damaging factory in Damietta in northern Egypt, angered by death of one of their own, continue to block roads into the city and hold workers hostage inside the plant

(Photo: Mohamed Mostafa)

Local residents protesting environmental damage caused by the MOPKO factory in Damietta are continuing to block all roads leading in and out of Damietta's international seaport where the plant is located for the

Some protesters have ‎threatened to “shut down the factory with their own bare hands,” Ahmed Omar, a leading protester, told Ahram Online.

The anger of protesters has been further inflamed by a medical report confirming a young protester was shot dead by a military weapon, ‎Ahmed Omar added. ‎

‎“The bullet hit his back and reached his belly. I have the medical report … the army is culpable for his death,” Omar told Ahram Online. “Nothing has happened to change the status-quo, while ‎some demonstrators are threatening to remove the factory with their bare hands.”‎

Conflicts between Damietta citizens and the authorities over the environmentally ‎hazardous factory have been ongoing since 2008, when ‎Agrium, a Canadian company, began constructing a fertiliser plant near the Damietta seaport in a ‎deal signed with the government in 2006. Despite suggestions that it would be shut down and ‎the company compensated, the factory has continued to operate.‎

Later, the expansion of two new extension plants at MOPKO – in which Agrium ‎owns shares – has reignited the struggle, with locals wary of any ‎government-prepared environmental reports about the plants. ‎Accordingly, protesters are demanding the closure of the first plant.‎

Protesters say the plant, located near the villages of ‎El-Sananiya, Ezbat El-Borg and Kafr El-Battikh, causes pollution, ‎chemical contamination, and uses vast amounts of Nile water which has led to water shortages in local communities.

Some MOPKO workers have been locked up inside the factory by angry ‎villagers.‎

‎“There are around 1000 people locked up in the Free Zone [where the MOPKO factory is located], thanks to the protesters’ siege of the whole area,” Mohamed El-‎Shetori, one of the detained workers, told Ahram Online by phone.‎

‎“Some people are sick and need medication, others need food, and the protesters aren’t ‎allowing anything or anyone to go in or out of the Free Zone … We haven’t seen these ‎protesters before, there is no chance to talk or reason with them.‎

‎“The factory started to shut down yesterday [Monday] but they do not believe it. It will ‎take time until it fully shuts down, it’s not exactly like stopping the engine of a car.”‎

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