Egypt tackles its waste problem

11.02.2019 - Article

KfW experts Barbara Ölz and Sebastian Aichele discuss the process of reforming the waste sector in Egypt, and how the KfW is supporting the change.

What does waste disposal currently look like in Egypt?

Until now, most waste has ended up on roads, next to canals or in open areas.
Until now, most waste has ended up on roads, next to canals or in open areas.© KfW

AICHELE: It's actually quite simple. Currently only about 60 percent of waste generated in Egypt is collected, 5 percent is properly disposed of and 2.5 percent is recycled. In practice only urban centres have a rubbish dump at all. Most refuse is disposed of in unofficial waste tips beside open canals, roads and in free areas. This leads to many problems: waste pollutes groundwater, blocks water pumps in drainage channels, poses a hygiene risk in residential areas and endangers animal life and the environment. To prevent this from happening, people all over the country burn their refuse themselves, thereby impairing air quality.

Why is this the case?

ÖLZ: Waste management has long been neglected in Egypt, while other sectors have undergone modernisation. Institutional responsibilities are sometimes unclear, specialist and organisational skills are poor, legal and financial framework conditions are inadequate. Moreover, most of the population is unwilling to pay fees and taxes for waste disposal and treatment. The government has a bit of work to do in order to convince the people.

What is the role of KfW?

AICHELE: We are helping the Egyptian government to modernise all aspects of waste management and are taking a “sector reform” approach. This means that we not only offer financial assistance but also support improvements to sector framework conditions, such as new legislation. KfW is tackling this problem together with the German development agency GIZ and with financial support from the European Union and Switzerland. Overall, this is a very ambitious project with a budget of 70 million Euro. Thirty per cent of the costs will be borne by the Egyptian government.

What is the purpose of the financial support?

AICHELE: We finance infrastructure measures, such as constructing and equipping rubbish dumps, waste transfer stations, collection equipment, as well as recycling and treatment facilities. We offer the government support in the strategic planning and

Waste is polluting the groundwater. If it is burned with no regulation, as is the case in many places, air quality suffers.
Waste is polluting the groundwater. If it is burned with no regulation, as is the case in many places, air quality suffers.© KfW

management of investment measures. The aim is comprehensive waste collection. Because every kilogramme of uncollected waste is one kilogramme of waste that potentially lands in the sea. The waste that finds its way into the Nile ends up in the Mediterranean. To raise awareness for this problem, the measures are now part of the Clean Oceans Initiative.

The new initiative of KfW, the French development bank AfD and the European Investment Bank.

ÖLZ: Precisely, it focuses above all on the collection, pretreatment and recycling of waste to put a stop to marine pollution.

Is a comprehensive solution realistic?

ÖLZ: Initially, we will limit ourselves to four of the 27 Egyptian governorates. It is, however, conceivable that further governorates will be added. This of course depends on the financial possibilities. The required investment in Egyptian waste management is extremely high – a total of approximately 3 billion Euro. Incidentally, this project also contributes towards decentralisation and the building of structures and skill sets at a local level. This is because waste management is a decentralised topic and every decision promotes greater independence of the governorates. There are still a great many details that need to be clarified – right down to the question of which vehicle can use which road.

© KfW

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