CAIRO: Following the government’s decision to allow the importation and use of coal in cement factories, several prominent voices have launched harsh criticism against the issue.
Among the most notable of these is satirist Bassem Youssef, who announced his support for the Egyptians Against Coal campaign, in hopes that the government reconsiders its decision.
Egyptians Against Coal was launched earlier this year as one of the only vocal opposers to the use of coal since the government announced its plans to consider its importation.
During his weekly program El Bernameg on Friday, Youssef hosted Ahmed Droubi, the coordinator of Egyptians Against Coal, who affirmed that coal usage in Egypt is “a major disaster,” noting that the most countries consuming coal seek to cut its use despite having great reserves, due to the major hazards it poses.
Droubi stated that coal use causes several diseases like asthma and lung cancer, as well as well as smog and environmental degradation. Coal also emits lead, cadmium, lithium and arsenic, as opposed to natural gas, which has no heavy metal emissions.
Furthermore, consuming coal in Egypt was the cause of major controversy even between Cabinet ministers, where some ministers support the use of coal, assuring that the coal will save the high costs of gas importation, while others still consider that it will cause an environmental disaster that adds new crisis to the current critical situation.
Minister of Environment Laila Iskander said in March that using coal in factories is dangerous to the economy, tourism, and people’s health, MENA reported.
“I failed in convincing the Cabinet not to import coal,” Iskandar said Friday, according to Al-Ahram.
Meanwhile, Minister of Industry Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour and Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker were among the top officials who supported the use of coal as a power alternative.
Head of the Suez Cement Company Omar Mehanna previously told Youm7 that the use of coal as an alternative energy source is a solution to the energy crisis in Egypt, and past dangers associated with coal no longer exist due to major developments in the industry.
“There is no better, faster or cheaper alternative energy source other than coal, and it is easy-to-control its side effects,” Professor of Petroleum and Mining at Al-Azhar University Mohamed Reda further told The Cairo Post.
However, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and three other human rights organizations expressed in a statement last Wednesday their deep discontent on the government decision to use coal, warning that this decision contradicts the article in the constitution on sustainable development.
The organizations added that coal use has bad consequences on nation’s health, economy and the next generations, affirming that they are doing their best to prevent applying this decision.
Furthermore, Droubi had previously told The Cairo Post that the use of coal would require major adjustments to infrastructure, which would take years to implement, and in turn would make Egypt dependent on coal for decades to come.
Droubi suggested that waste-based fuel is the most environmentally and economically friendly way to go in terms of addressing Egypt’s energy crisis, while the Ministry of Environment has launched several projects attempting to harness renewable energy.
Droubi stated nonetheless that no matter what energy source Egypt turns to, the energy crisis will be felt in the immediate years, whereas the use of coal would continue to affect Egypt far ahead.