Target: Egyptian Minister of Environment Khaled Fahmy
Goal: End the harmful practice of factories using coal in Egyptian neighborhoods.
Egypt is beginning to feel fallout from its 2014 decision to let coal be brought in for cement and electricity production. In Alexandria, residents live only 10 meters away from a cement plant that burns coal. These residents are currently filing a lawsuit against their governor and the coal company responsible because they allege that their health has been negatively impacted. Using coal in cement production creates highly toxic emissions that hurt both Egyptian citizens and the environment. It is particularly shortsighted to allow it in residential neighborhoods, even with certain exceptions.
Egypt estimates their coal imports are going to reach 30 million tons per year. This is not good for the average citizen living next to a coal burning plant because burning coal releases mercury, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and many other unhealthy substances into the air. It also contributes to global warming, which harms more than those within Egypt’s borders. Egypt’s Minister of Environment, Khaled Fahmy, said, “Coal use is applied with strict measures and the ministry strives to enforce those measures on all factories,” but do we really believe that the letter of the law is going to be followed in a country with a corruption grade of 38/100 from Transparency International? To put this in perspective, the United States received a score of 78/100 and we still have issues with greedy officials trying to get away with environmental crimes.
So much corruption in Egypt does not bode well for human rights or environmental causes–corrupt people tend to not follow laws, especially laws that cost them. Environmental laws, such as keeping citizens safe from the effects of burning coal, cost people money in the short term.
Egypt’s Environmental Minister also said that he welcomes any lawsuits filed against him. That is not the correct attitude to take about such things. Urge him to end the harmful practice of burning coal in residential neighborhoods. No number of lawsuits can make up for permanent health problems caused by something so harmful, yet so fixable.
Dear Minister Fahmy,
Using coal in cement and electricity production is already causing problems. Every step of the coal-for-energy process creates pollution. Your country deserves the best that you have to offer and making your citizens sick is not the best that you have to offer.
Until you can confidently say that your energy production process is not going to be abused, you should not use such a polluting resource as coal. It will be abused and your citizens will get sick as a result. At the very least, coal should not be used in residential areas. Many of your citizens cannot afford to move and escape from the pollution. According to affected resident Hany Abo Okeil, “We visited the Respiratory Hospital in Alexandria with a random group of families from the neighbourhood. It turned out that all of them were sick with respiratory problems due to the factory’s emissions, according to their medical reports.” I urge you to halt or scale back your country’s usage of coal, especially in areas where people live.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Harry Lawford