Egypt completed the project Sustainable Management of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), announcing the safe disposal of 2,000 tons of hazardous substances listed in the Stockholm Convention, signed in 2001, and to which Egypt is a signatory.
POPs are toxic chemicals that affect human health and the environment. The most common POPs include DDT, industrial chemicals, and dioxins.
Egypt’s aim included getting rid of 1,000 tons of highly hazardous POPs and pesticides and 1,000 tons of transformer oils contaminated with polyvinyl chloride, Yasmine Fouad, the minister of environment, said.
The plan was drafted in 2010 to safely dispose of the toxins endangering people’s lives, such as the harmful oils stored in Al-Saff area in Giza, Fouad added.
The bill led the then minister of agriculture to ban the storage of abandoned pesticides and to take measures regarding the treatment of transformer oils by recycling them. The decision saved the state a considerable amount of money used to import the oils. Fouad said two mobile units were imported to recycle the oil.
Moreover, the strategy helped in the training of Egyptians to safely dispose of POPs working to integrate the environmental dimension in the state’s developmental sectors, Fouad stated.
In 2017, under the scheme, Egypt shipped 220 tons of the toxic pesticide lindane to France for safe disposal in a high-tech incinerator. The dangerous material, which takes many years to decompose, was stored for 19 years in the port of Adabiya, in Suez.
Similarly, the POPs in the Al-Saff storage were shipped to France and Sweden for safe disposal.
Rania Al-Mashat, the minister of international cooperation, said her ministry provided $230 million last year for the financing of environmental projects and green transformation in cooperation with various parties.
The project for Sustainable Management of POPs was funded by two grants from the Global Environment Facility to the tune of $8.1 million and the Trust Fund Pollution Management and Environmental Health, for $750,000, under the supervision of the World Bank, Al-Mashat added.
She lauded the efforts of the concerned ministries of the environment, agriculture, and electricity, the World Bank Group, and the project team, adding that the project eases the way for Egypt to achieve sustainable development and its Vision 2030. In addition, the World Bank supports Egypt’s development efforts in the climate change file as it gears up to host COP27 in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh in November.
In light of the cooperation with the World Bank and the Ministry of Environment, Al-Mashat said the $200 million Greater Cairo Project for Air Pollution and Climate Change Management is being implemented to improve air quality and decrease pollution in the capital.
Al-Mashat added that a draft climate and development report on Egypt is being prepared to assess the risks of climate change and identify opportunities for mitigation and adaptation actions by the public and private sectors.
Another study being prepared is meant to offer strategic directions to Egypt to achieve comprehensive green growth by focusing on the blue and green economies and the management of waste, she pointed out.
The POPs project is related to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 11 on sustainable local cities and communities and Goal 13 on climate action, Al-Mashat noted.
Mohamed Abdel-Meguid, head of the Pesticides Committee at the Ministry of Agriculture, said the ministry has begun to analyse and dispose of empty containers of pesticides, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, from various sites in several governorates.
The ministry has also designed a mechanism for people to dispose of their own containers of pesticides and to fine violators who cause harm to people’s health.
The project helped in stopping the import of transformer oils that contain cancerous substances, said Ahmed Mahina, first deputy at the Ministry of Electricity, adding that the two mobile units Egypt imported serve other African and Arab countries.
Ahmed Abdel-Hamid, head of the project, said the units yield high economic returns and that staff working in the Ministry of Electricity have been trained to classify and safely dispose of hazardous substances under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment.
Marina Weiss, country director for Egypt, Yemen, and Djibouti at the World Bank, said the success of the project demonstrates Egypt’s commitment to the environmental agenda, especially with regard to Egypt’s 2050 strategy and its preparations to host COP27.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.