Residents of Wady Al-Qamar are reiterating their call to transfer a cement plant away from the residential block after increased emissions.
Residents published photos on social media platforms showing black fumes and dust covering their roofs, attributing this to the emissions from the factory.
The cement plant recently started integrating coal use in their production process, alongside at least 20 other factories in Egypt that were granted permission to use coal, amid an alleged natural gas shortage.
Member of parliament Haitham Al-Hariri told Daily News Egypt that there is no other way, but to transfer this hazardous plant away from the residential block.
“The cost of transferring this plant is much less than transferring citizens,” he noted.
This was widely perceived as a positive response to the decade-long struggle of Wady Al-Qamar residents, as Minister of Environment Khaled Fahmy said in late December 2015 that shutting down the plant requires citizens to file a complaint to the parliament.
The old version of the environment law used to prohibit coal import or its use due to its hazardous environmental risks. However, in a recent amendment, the law allowed the use of coal with strict measures in terms of filters used, proximity from residential areas, and amount of emissions allowed.
Factories, however, tend to constantly exceed the limit of emissions allowed in more than just the Wady Al-Qamar neighbourhood. They also allegedly operate without filters, amid weak accountability mechanisms from the authorities.
Unlike other locations that face the same plight of factory proximity to residential blocks, Wady Al-Qamar existed before this newly constructed plant.
The factory has shared Wady Al-Qamar with residents since the early twentieth century, but in recent years it has expanded operations, adding a new kiln that is situated right next to residential buildings. Following the natural gas shortage, the factory started burning imported coal to heat its kiln, according to one of the residents who has a son working in the factory.
In a visit by Daily News Egypt to Wady Al-Qamar in November 2015 and after speaking with several citizens, it was discovered that this issue had taken its toll not only on their roofs, but also on their health, with dozens of children developing respiratory disorders.