World Bank approves $200m for Egypt's air pollution and climate change project

The annual cost of air pollution on health in the Greater Cairo area is equivalent to about 1.4% of Egypt's economic output

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The World Bank on Thursday approved a $200 million project for Egypt to reduce air pollution and address the impact of climate change as the country works on improving residents' quality of life and undertaking more green initiatives.

The six-year programme – the Greater Cairo Air Pollution Management and Climate Change Project – will focus on reducing vehicle emissions, improving management of solid waste, improving air quality and strengthening climate decision-making system, the World Bank said in a statement on Thursday.

“Egypt is undertaking steps to accelerate the transition towards a more green, sustainable, resilient and inclusive development model,” Marina Wes, The Washington-based lender's country director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti, said. “This operation is an integral part of our work to improve the quality of life for Egyptians, including the most vulnerable groups of society, enabling them to benefit from a whole array of development projects, while staying healthy and productive.’’

Cairo, a city of more than 20 million people, has recently made improvements in air quality but ambient air pollution remains its most significant environmental health issue—one that weighs heavily on residents’ quality of life and on the economy. The annual economic cost of air pollution on health in the Cairo area alone is equivalent to about 1.4 per cent of Egypt’s gross domestic product, the World Bank said, citing recent studies.

Since Egypt implemented lockdown and curfew measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, the air quality has improved in Cairo by 36 per cent and in coastal cities and the Nile Delta by more than 40 per cent, according to its Ministry of Environment.

The World Bank-backed project will support Egypt’s efforts to reduce air pollution and climate pollutant emissions in line with the country’s Sustainable Development Strategy goals in its Egypt Vision 2030 strategy. The project will contribute toward Egypt’s key environmental goal of halving particulate matter pollution and toward implementing a strong, economically feasible climate impact mitigation programme that would meet Egypt’s 2030 targets for reduced emissions, the statement said.

“This project supports our Green Recovery Plan to mitigate and adapt simultaneously, promoting new methods and technologies that help reduce air pollution and curb climate change,” Rania Al-Mashat, Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation, said.

“This way, we are prioritising integrated climate solutions that strengthen resilience, protect the health of Egyptians and promote an economically productive society.”

The new air pollution reduction and climate change project aims to modernise Egypt’s air quality management system.

It will also support solid waste management in Cairo, including plans for the construction of an integrated waste management facility at the 10th of Ramadan City, the closure and rehabilitation of the Abou-Zaabal dumpsite and strengthening the regulatory framework for waste management.

It will also fund a pilot scheme using public sector electric buses, along with related infrastructure like charging stations, and assess the technical and financial feasibility of scaling this up.

Finally, the project will look to implement activities aimed at behavioural change by communities and service providers and ensure citizen engagement in project design and implementation.

“The hazards of air pollution and climate change are endless and can span decades,” Dr. Yasmine Fouad, Egypt's Minister of Environment, said. “Through this partnership with the World Bank, we aim to give our children and youth a healthier future, where they can prosper, grow, and fulfill their potential.”

Egypt plans to implement 691 green projects in the fiscal year 2020-2021, at a total cost of about 447.3 billion Egyptian pounds ($28.46bn), according to the Ministry of Environment's website.

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