Egypt commemorates World Environment Day, announces cleanup efforts

The Environment Ministry marked this year’s World Environment Day on June 5 by taking part in the official campaign named I’m With Nature. However, some have questioned whether the ministry’s efforts are sufficient.

The ministry issued a statement on Monday announcing that it will preside over efforts coordinated with local volunteers and environmental groups to plant trees, clean up natural protectorates and Red Sea coral reefs, discourage the use of plastic bags and hold workshops to raise awareness of the environmental threats facing the country.

According to the statement, the Environment Ministry hopes “to motivate individuals to enjoy and protect nature, while considering themselves part of it, and preserving it from pollution and degradation.”

Ahmed al-Droubi, coordinator of the Egyptians Against Coal Campaign, told Mada Masr that much more has to be done to protect Egypt’s environment and biodiversity from pollution and degradation.

“World Environment Day is symbolic,” Droubi said, however Egypt needs to “increase efforts to raise awareness regarding threats facing the environment, while placing an emphasis on the duties of states, companies and individuals in protecting it in the long run.”

Droubi added that Egypt and other “state parties must uphold their commitments to halt global climate change particularly after the Trump administration’s disastrous decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.”

He commended what he called the ministry’s “modest efforts,” adding “Egypt must step up as a member of the Arab and African blocs to reduce the destructive impact of climate change, which is already affecting us, by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and actively developing our nation’s using renewable energy sources.”

He suggested that “Egypt needs to halt any new coal powered projects, and phase out existing ones,” in addition to “promoting the establishment of clean and renewable energies.”

The Environment Ministry reduced restrictions on coal importation in April, raising concerns about the effects on the environment.

According to the statement issued on Monday, the ministry is working in coordination with the Center for the Environment and Development in the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE) to gradually move away from the use of plastic bags and promote the use biodegradable paper bags instead.

On Sunday it also announced a partnership with the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA), aimed at clearing the Red Sea’s seabed of waste.

HEPCA administrator, Mostafa Abd al-Ellah, told Mada Masr: “Beach and seafloor cleanups are taking place in Hurghada and Marsa Alam. On June 4, we commenced our cleanup campaign in the Al-Erq Coral Reefs, which is one of the prime diving spots the area.”

According to Abd al-Ellah a campaign ran from January to June of this year aiming to rid coastlines of fishing lines and nets, which can suffocate the coral as well as larger marine life including dolphins and sea turtles.

While Abd al-Ellah commended the ministry for its conservation efforts on World Environment Day, he added that “Firstly, Egypt needs additional awareness-raising campaigns. Secondly, we need additional funding and resources to help us protect our environment and its biodiversity. Thirdly, we must confront illegal poaching, hunting and fishing more directly.”

Egypt has engaged with attempts to clean up the Red Sea seafloor over past years, particularly engaging with efforts on World Environment Day.

On World Environment Day 2015 Egypt set a world record for the most participants in an underwater cleanup at a single location, with 613 participants taking part including record-breaking deep sea diver Ahmed Gabr.

Gabr told Mada Masr that on this occasion volunteers collected “a massive assortment of bottles, cans, along with a shisha and a barbecue.”

He said that he would like to see Egypt become more actively involved in recycling its waste products. “Some countries make money from garbage and waste, let’s make more use of recycling in Egypt” said Gabr.

World Environment Day, which was initiated in 1974, focuses on raising awareness regarding environmental issues including pollution, waste management, climate change, ecological conservation efforts and the protection of wildlife.

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