Why Egypt’s Environmental Regulations are Important for Combating Climate Change
For centuries, in the lush green fields of Egypt’s fertile Delta Valley, Egyptian farmers have always carried a deep love for the land – growing popular crops such as wheat and cotton, and putting Egypt on the map of global agriculture.
Egypt is currently ranked as one of the most water-scarce countries in the world. The country faces many challenges regarding water and food security that are exacerbated due to rapid population growth, climate change, and other factors. It has been suggested that, in 2025, the UN predicts that Egypt will be approaching a state of “absolute water crisis” by 2025 and that the nation is already below the United Nations’ water poverty threshold.
Although environmental regulations are not as well-known or covered as other climate issues they play an important role in ensuring all sectors of society, farmer or factory owner, adhere to the same standards.
These regulations have been in effect since 1994. They have been updated over time to reflect changing circumstances. For example, in 2014, the Egyptian government published “Renewable Energy Law” (Decree Law 203/2014). This law encouraged the private sector in Egypt to produce electricity from renewable sources and allowed more private companies to enter the market, such KarmSolar.
There is another danger in the midst of rising population growth and increasing local clean water needs: pollution. Many sources of pollution can go unnoticed or ignored in environmental regulations. These include industrial wastewater discharge, agricultural water drain, and other toxic chemicals. Reusing wastewater for agricultural, or even potable purposes can be controlled by environmental regulations.
Noura Abdou is an environmental engineer and a master’s candidate at Alexandria University, as well as founder and environmental expert at “Our Climate” – an Egyptian social enterprise for environmental solutions in wastewater and fresh water treatment through clean energy.
More specifically, her research focuses on the interrelationship of climate change, food security, and water. It also examines the vulnerability and vulnerability of communities living in rural areas or poorer areas. They are more likely be disproportionately affected by water pollution and to face greater challenges. Agriculture, which is the largest employer of rural residents, plays a major part in water pollution. Farmers discharge agrochemicals as well as sediments and saline drainages into water bodies.
Solving this problem is more than just using new technologies in water, it’s about getting deeper into the implementation process and connecting stakeholders.
“Connecting all stakeholders in society is highly important. First, there are the farmers and ordinary citizens who face water pollution challenges and need an environmental solution. To provide this solution, we need to connect them with NGOs from civil society in that specific area, as there are several different districts – from Giza to Sohag, Minya, and Qena – that have their own unique challenges in water pollution,” Abdou tells Egyptian Streets.
“Another important stakeholder is the academic and research community, which includes those who have policy ideas and solutions but do not know how to implement them. They are very important because they have the ability to conduct studies and experiments on new technologies to assess their true impact, and also to understand each district’s own unique challenges,” she adds.
The next important step is to ensure that Egyptian code implementation complies with international guidelines while also addressing the Egyptian context.
“I’ve always been passionate about helping the villages and areas that are most impoverished, and how regulations in the Egyptian code are concerned with environmental issues,” Abdou says.
Abdou’s research is focused on a comparative analysis between Egyptian code, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on wastewater reuse in agriculture, and the restrictions in implementing this process.
“There are a lot of things not being covered and it’s not being taken into full consideration in the Egyptian code, and this is the gap that needs to be worked on further and to focus more specifically on the communities that are affected by water pollution, as there are risks with regards to health and water scarcity. Climate change can affect water shortage in the future, especially as population increases and contamination increases, which is why it is important to strengthen the risk management system through stronger legal restrictions,” Abdou notes.
According to the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Report, climate change disproportionately affects food-insecure regions, as well as jeopardizing crop and livestock production, such as Egypt’s sugar crops, and fruits and vegetables. The process will be more efficient if holistic approaches are used to consider the implementation of policies and regulations as well as the use certain climate-smart technology.
“Wastewater reuse has become increasingly important as a cost-efficient supply that decreases the stress on freshwater sources, provides nutrient-rich water for irrigation, and it can be used for recycling which is very important environmentally,” Abdou adds.
“Wastewater reuse has to follow certain regulations and a sequence of treatment procedures to reduce concentration of pollutants in it, which Egyptian code does not take into consideration. The Egyptian code doesn’t consider other criteria that can be used to determine if water is polluted. It must also take into consideration the acidity of water, chemicals and other other industrial materials.”
Abdou says that the Egyptian code faces difficulties in assessing the quality and quantity of water during irrigation. This is despite the fact soil salinity has a direct impact on food security because it concerns groundwater. “The Egyptian code does not address groundwater, yet this is going to be very important in the next coming years, as groundwater is the world’s largest freshwater resource.”
Another important flaw in Egyptian code lies in the fact that it doesn’t take into account the cultural and geographic aspects of water contamination and water scarcity. Also, it doesn’t address how to improve water quality in each area. “We need to include the different geographical considerations in the Egyptian code, because what we often do is we split people into categories, from farmers and field workers, but we have to treat all workers equally in the law as they all face and are exposed to the same dangers, so we must protect the public health of all,” she adds.
Egypt has been upgrading its water infrastructure projects over the years, as it is planning to construct 17 water desalination plants by 2025, and recently inaugurated the world’s largest water treatment plant of Bahr al-Baqar in the northern province of Port Said.
To address the climate crisis, governments can’t do it alone. A strong regulation and a collective mobilization of all stakeholders is required to ensure effective and rapid implementation.
Essentially, environmental regulations also play an important role in securing environmental justice for local vulnerable communities – those that are in most danger and are at risk from environmental pollution, and cannot hold anyone accountable for any of the environmental damages.
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