Egypt is officially known as the Arab Republic of Egypt. It is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and the southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. In 2020 it had an estimated population of slightly more than 100 million people.
In 2019, Egypt was experiencing “Moderate” air quality with a US AQI reading of 63. This is according to figures suggested by the World Health Organisation (WHO). For the months of May and June, Cairo attained the WHO target figure of less than 10 µg/m³. In September and November, the quality fell to 36.9 and 46.4 µg/m³, respectively. For the remaining months, the air quality was “moderate”. When compared to the rest of the world, Egypt ranked as the 56th most polluted out of a total of 98.
In August 2020, air pollution had returned to record high levels among residents of Greater Cairo, after dropping significantly over the past months, as a result of closures and curfews due to the outbreak of COVID 19 in the country since mid-March. Where the monitoring stations recorded an increase in the concentration of pollutants in Greater Cairo, because of emissions from vehicle exhausts and public transport, and the burning of waste, which led to the citizens feeling of extreme temperatures and high humidity, and general discomfort both inside and outside homes.
An official source revealed that the percentage of air pollution in Cairo, in particular, began to appear during July, after life began to return to normal. Consequently, congestion has returned to the street, and solid and harmful waste is disposed of in an unsafe manner by burning it in the streets, which led to the rise in the percentage of pollutants to dangerous levels. The source accuses the Ministry of not being well prepared to face the pollution crisis, knowing that the matter was expected after the return of life to normal, without any concern for the health and economic impact, stressing that the Egyptians are suffocating and are breathing large amounts of carbon dioxide, iron and lead. He denounced the mismanagement of the environmental file, which saw Cairo ranked first among 10 cities in terms of air, light and noise pollution in 2018.
The official, who preferred not to be named, added that the COVID 19 crisis led to a decrease in the percentage of pollutants from carbon and sulphur gases, due to the reduction of emissions from vehicles and factories emissions from April to June, calling for the formation of a fact-finding committee on the catastrophic situation. He clarified that the Ministry of Environment has not played the role assigned to it to develop a strategy for managing solid waste and making use of it, in order to preserve the environment and the health of citizens. He explains that the waste collection during the Eid at the level of Greater Cairo governorates (Cairo, Giza, Qalyubia) reached more than 120 tons, and Cairo ranked first. And it was dealt with either by burning by the people or letting it pile up in the streets, leading to respiratory and chest diseases, cancer and other health problems.
The main source of air pollution in Egypt comes from the particulate matter of both PM2.5 and PM10 varieties. They mainly come from transportation, industry and the open burning of solid organic waste material. Given its close proximity to the desert regions surrounding the country, a large portion of dust is blown in from the surrounding lands. The air quality in Cairo varies between 10 and 100 times more polluted than the worldwide acceptable standards. The lack of rain compounds to the situation because of the cleaneing effect falling rain has. The air over Cairo is very often thick and grey in colour and appears as a haze. Carbon monoxide (CO) emitted from vehicles mixes in with the PM particles.
Towards the end of 2020, The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors approved a $200 million loan to support Egypt’s efforts to reduce air pollution in Cairo. The project will focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, improving solid waste management, and strengthening the decision-making system for air quality and climate. Recent studies estimate the annual economic cost of air pollution to health in the Greater Cairo Region alone at 1.4 per cent of Egypt's GDP.
"Egypt's Vision 2030" is the project that will contribute to achieving the Egyptian government's goal of the environment, which is to reduce air pollution from fine suspended particles by 50 per cent by 2030.
The new air pollution and climate change management project aims to modernise the Egyptian system for monitoring air quality and strengthen the ability of the population in Cairo to cope with high pollution situations, including accidents that arise or are exacerbated by emissions, and severe weather phenomena. Contributions to the reduction of vehicle emissions by supporting the use of the electric bus system in the public sector and related infrastructure, including charging stations for electric vehicles, and assessing the technical and financial feasibility for expanding the application of this system and support activities aimed at changing societal and service providers' behaviours and ensure citizen participation in project design and implementation.
Air pollution is one of the biggest challenges facing mankind at present, especially in urban areas, due to its serious effects on public health. The people of low and middle-income countries are considered to be the most affected by air pollution. Where the World Health Organisation estimates that more than 90 per cent of deaths out of 7 million annual cases occur in these countries, due to exposure to fine particles such as PM2.5 and PM10 in polluted air. Air pollution is a very important risk factor for non-communicable diseases, causing more than a quarter of all deaths in adults: 45 per cent from COPD, 30 per cent from lung cancer, 28 per cent from heart disease, and 25 per cent from a stroke. Air pollution also accounts for 52 per cent of deaths from communicable diseases such as acute lower respiratory infections. According to WHO estimates, the Eastern Mediterranean Region was the region with the most severe air pollution during the period from 2008-2015.
Among the causes of pollution, as the amount of pollution, we breathe in depends on many factors, such as access to clean energy for cooking and heating, the time of day and the weather. Rush hour is an obvious source of local pollution, but air pollution can reach long distances, and sometimes across continents on international weather patterns. And no one is safe from this pollution, which comes from 5 main human sources. These sources release a range of substances including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxide, ground-level ozone, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons and lead, all of which are harmful to human health.
The main source of household air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels, wood, and other biomass-based fuels for cooking, heating and home lighting. There are around 3.8 million premature deaths due to indoor air pollution each year, the vast majority of these deaths occurring in the developing world. Of the 193 countries, 97 countries have increased the percentage of households with access to clean-burning fuels to more than 85 per cent. And yet, 3 billion people still use solid fuels and open fires for cooking, heating and lighting. Adopting cleaner, more modern stoves and fuels can reduce disease risks and save lives. Dried animal dung is mixed with twigs and leaves and formed into cakes. These are then dried and used as a very cheap and convenient source of energy.
In many countries, energy production is a major source of air pollution. Coal-fired power stations are a major contributor to emissions, while diesel generators are a growing concern in off-grid areas. Industrial processes and the use of solvents, in the chemical and mining industries, also pollute the air. Policies and programs to increase energy efficiency and production from renewable sources have a direct impact on a country's air quality. Currently, 82 countries out of 193 have incentives promoting investment in renewable energy production, cleaner production, energy efficiency and pollution control.
The global transport sector accounts for about a quarter of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, and this proportion is rising. These transportation emissions have been linked to nearly 400,000 premature deaths. Almost half of all deaths from air pollution caused by transportation are due to diesel emissions, with those who live near major traffic roads are 12 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia. Reducing vehicle emissions is an important intervention to improve air quality, especially in urban areas. Policies and standards that require the use of cleaner fuels and modern vehicle emissions standards can reduce vehicle emissions by 90 per cent or more.
The open burning of waste and organic waste in landfills releases harmful dioxins, furans, methane and black carbon into the atmosphere. On a global scale, approximately 40 per cent of waste is burned in open areas. The problem is greater in urban areas and developing countries. Open burning of agricultural and municipal waste is practised in 166 out of 193 countries. Improving solid waste collection, separation and disposal reduces the amount of waste that is burned or buried. Separating organic waste and converting it into compost or bioenergy improves soil fertility and provides an alternative source of energy. Reducing a third of the amount of food lost or wasted may also improve air quality.
According to 2018 statistics, the level of air pollution in Cairo exceeded 11 times the limit adopted by the World Health Organisation. An expert at the United Nations urged countries to confront the problem of air pollution, and thus fulfil their human rights obligations to clean air.
In order to protect the atmosphere, it is necessary to carry out effective and accurate monitoring of the state of the atmosphere within the framework of real-time monitoring. To achieve this goal, we need tools to assess air quality and to identify sources of pollution and the degree of risk emanating from this pollution. Currently, Russian universities are implementing various projects, starting from establishing a base for dust particles and ending with designing small air laboratories.
Dust scattered in cities (especially fine, dispersed dust with a volume of less than 2.5 microns PM2.5) is the primary comprehensive carrier of most pollutants to the lungs in the human body. Therefore, if we do not have an understanding of the composition of the dust components, it is difficult to correctly assess their potential impact. On the environment and human health, as well as accurately determining the source of pollution.
Scientists at the State Research University in Samara, in Russia, are also evaluating the air condition through a mobile air device, which weighs just over a kilogram and is considered an alternative to the huge, expensive laboratory equipment. It is noteworthy that this device was designed for use with drones, allowing it to fly independently according to the planned path and transmit data about the air condition to the control centre. The process of analysing samples takes three minutes, noting that this technology is unmatched in terms of speed.
The Green Belt project aims to introduce green spaces around the Ring Road of Greater Cairo and contribute to protecting the environment from pollution by intensifying the spread of greenery to mitigate the effects of vital variables harmful to the health of the population and investing the spaces around Greater Cairo in planting trees to achieve a strong economic return from trees that can be planted. And protect citizens from contracting chest diseases and allergies, and benefit from treated wastewater.
The area to be planted and cultivated is 100 km long and 25 meters wide, and this is done in four phases, the first includes 50 km in Cairo Governorate, 28 km in Giza Governorate, 22 km in Qalyubia Governorate, and the second phase, and includes crossroads intersecting with the Ring Road 25 metres in depth on both sides of the road. It will utilise the drainage channels currently found at each side of the ring road.