Everyone here feels these effects, as nine million Egyptians suffer from chest allergies and asthma, one-sixth of them are children, according to the Egyptian Thoracic Society.
Welcome to our Climate Blog!
This week, we’d like to introduce Rahma Diaa, a freelance journalist from Egypt who has been reporting on the city’s biggest crisis – air pollution.
I am Rahma, writing from Cairo, where the daily cough has been a part of life well before COVID-19.
This isn’t just me saying it, last week the results of a 10-year study researching air pollution were released, with alarming results.
With more than a 1,000 scientists from 23 countries analyzing environmental challenges across the Mediterranean, they argued that the combination of weak vehicle emissions standards, dust, a lack of public transport and ever-increasing traffic emissions are causing alarmingly high levels of ozone and fine particle pollution.
This is particularly high in the biggest cities across the Middle East, like here in Cairo and Beirut, and it warns of the serious health consequences of air pollution.
Everyone here feels these effects, as nine million Egyptians suffer from chest allergies and asthma, one-sixth of them are children, according to the Egyptian Thoracic Society, and my daughter is one of these children. She has suffered from allergies since her
birth and needs to use medicated sprays throughout the year to control her cough.
In 2018, I worked with the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) on a year-long investigative report documenting the health damage suffered by the residents surrounding the cement factories that depend on coal for the industrial process.
The investigation used medical reports to highlight that chronic diseases such as allergies, asthma and even lung cancer are significantly higher in areas adjacent to cement factories that use coal.
While most of the world has shifted away from coal use in industrial processes, the Egyptian Cabinet authorized the use of coal in industrial operations as recently as 2014, even in areas close to residential communities.
As you can imagine, the government of Egypt is still trying to brand itself as “green” and is genuinely spending millions of dollars on clean energy projects, many of which are indirectly funded through loans.
In September, The World Bank approved $200 million to support the “Greater Cairo Air Pollution Management and Climate Change Project”. This comes after the European Investment Bank poured in €350 billion last year to renovate the Cairo metro line.
In 2018, we also turned on one of the largest solar installations in the world, known as the Benban Solar Energy Complex. This has led the BBC to highlight Egypt as a renewable energy outliner in the region, through a recent report titled; “Are We Ready for the End of the Oil Age?. In it, they argued that increasing solar power is not only good for the environment but reduces our risk of resource conflicts that continue to plague the region.
However, a recent report in Nature Communications argued that climate change, in fact, decreases the efficacy of solar panels, as increased humidity could to more clouds in the future.
While we’re genuinely working hard to encourage international investment in renewable energy, it’s our crippling domestic governance that continues to fail Cairo’s people, including my daughter.
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