Egypt is considered one of the most polluted countries in the region, gas emissions reach 4 tons of carbon per person, compared to 1.6 tons of carbon per person in other developing countries. According to World bank report “Arabic Republic of Egypt: Cost of environmental degradation, Air and Water Pollution, published in 2019 “The report finds that 19,200 people died prematurely and over 3 billion days were lived with illness in Egypt in 2017 as a result of ambient Particulate Meters PM2.5 air pollution in Greater Cairo, and inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene in all of Egypt. The estimated cost of these health effects was equivalent to 2.5% of Egypt’s Gross Domestic Product GDP in 2016/2017.”
Responding to Paris climate agreement in 2016 and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) as well as the government's road map to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030, Egypt like many other countries, has adopted an environment friendly and sustainable policy towards its economic system.
Challenges related to efficiency and implementation of such policy are inevitable, especially regarding the Egyptian Environment law no4 of 1994, the common Law for environment protection and the core of every economic activity inquiring possession or use of dangerous substances, this Law imposes Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), public participation and special ways for waste disposal, those elements among others are required to obtain license to operate. Licenses are granted for a specific period of time, it shall be renewed on a regular basis.The deficiency in this Law was so obviously illustrated by a lawsuit initiated by Habi Center for environmental rights and is now held before the Egyptian Council of State by our firm (ElSeidi Law firm).
To sum up:
On 3rd October 2016, the Habi Center for Environmental Rights recorded a claim at the Egyptian Administrative Court challenging the use of coal by the cement companies Lafarge Egypt (part of LafargeHolcim) and the Suez Cement Gather (part of HeidelbergCement). The Habi center claimed that both companies had fizzled to reveal required Environmental Impact Assessment Studies or subtle elements on public hearings before utilizing coal in their operations. It moreover claimed that by utilizing coal without following relevant regulations, the companies were abusing the rights to health, solid environment, interest and access to information, as cherished within the Egyptian Constitution. The case was recorded by the Administrative Court based on a provision within the Egyptian Environment Law no4 of 1994 article 103 that permits any citizen or affiliation concerned with the environment to seek judicial remedies in reaction to environmental infringement.
The Habi Center inquired the Administrative Court to compel the government to arrange both companies, as well as the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, to publish the results of public hearings and environmental impact studies on their particular websites; these publications should include every single phase of the production (Use, transport, import, export, storage) as well as waste disposal. The corporations did not attend any session of the trial, despite being legally notified more than once.
On 30th November 2020, the Administrative Judicial Court of the Egyptian State Council decided the inadmissibility of the case because of the lack of a negative administrative decision, in a judgment reflecting that the administrative courts tend to consider EIA and public hearings as supplementary administrative procedures with no significant impact on the licensing process, this interpretation shall therefore deprive the Law of its meaning which will cause more violations by economic operators knowing that the dispositions of Environmental Law are not legally binding, we have appealed this judgment and still in circulation.
What is next?
Such a questionable decision by the Egyptian Council of State was a disappointment for all environmental activists, however, during this trial; the court has permitted the extraction of very important documents proving the repeated environmental violations by cement companies. Based on these documents along with the Suez cement statement on its website confirming that the company has obtained a license to use coal till 2021, with no further mention to licenses concerning the rest of the production phases, and Lafarge's absolute silence concerning that matter, we addressed the two companies to take convenient measures, to stop these violations and proper licenses should be obtained as a result of EIA including all the aspects of actual production and public participation properly held.
According to Egypt's biennial update report provided by ministry of Environment to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Changes (UNFCC), published on 20 December 2019, cement industry is responsible for 51% of the emissions for the Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU) sector, cement production is also ranked 4th among the top 16 contributors to GHG emissions.
Use public support to make cement companies respond to these allegations, make sure they are complying with the Egyptian regulations, and most importantly complying with the parent company's code of conduct and national Law since this may be a legal ground to hold the parent company accountable for these violations.
Protect the natural environments from heavy damages caused by chemical pollution. Especially the Red Sea and marine environment given that a large number of cement plants is located in Suez on the shores of the Red Sea.
We also seek to raise public awareness about environmental rights and repetitive corporate violations; our ultimate goal is to promote a rethinking of the fundamentals of the Egyptian Environmental Law (Access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters) by courts, public and operators.
Aware of the amount of support and impact that the civil society has in Egypt, it shall help us achieve the expected success of the campaign (Face Pollution Through Law), that does not only include raising awareness of the public but also, we think that if civil society get involved with us, in this campaign; it will ensure the pressure needed, for these companies to respond and will definitely help us in court.
We, then, hope to release a powerful campaign (Face Pollution Through Law) with many civil society actors as possible, your support is most welcome and any kind of assistance is highly appreciated.
For any further information or a potential collaboration, feel free to contact us by mail on email@example.com , by phone on 01007177437 or visit us in our office located in 4 Al Ghabarti Street, Heliopolis, Cairo.