10 Common Environmental Issues in Egypt

Given the anticipated rise in heat waves, dust storms, storms along the Mediterranean coast, and extreme weather events, Egypt is extremely vulnerable to climate change.

Over the past 30 years, there has been evidence of stronger warming, with average yearly temperatures rising by 0.53 degrees Celsius every decade.  The nation’s climate concerns affect and will continue to affect today’s younger generations.

In the Middle East and Central Asia, rising temperatures and severe weather have caused catastrophic losses in several nations.

Egypt is particularly susceptible to droughts, sea level rise, water scarcity, and other negative effects of climate change. Coastal towns, tourism, and agriculture will be especially vulnerable if adaptation is not made.

Egypt is particularly susceptible to desertification, elevated soil salinity, heat waves, sea level rise, and rainfall retention. resulting in potentially disastrous effects on the food security, economics, and general health and well-being of the populace.

Egypt faces numerous environmental challenges, such as inadequate waste management, air pollution, water scarcity, ancient site destruction, and animal welfare concerns.

Common Environmental Issues in Egypt

  • Restrictions in the Operation of Environmental Groups
  • Air Pollution
  • Noise Pollution
  • Microbiological Disease
  • Water Pollution
  • Encroachment of Water
  • Waste Disposal
  • Development
  • Urbanization
  • Traffic

1. Restrictions in the Operation of Environmental Groups

The capacity of environmental organizations to conduct independent policy, lobbying, and fieldwork—all crucial to safeguarding Egypt’s natural environment—has been severely restricted by the Egyptian government.

These limitations jeopardize Egypt’s capacity to fulfill its environmental and climate action pledges while also violating the freedoms of assembly and association.

Local environmental groups have been rendered incapable by the arbitrary funding, research, and registration barriers imposed by the Egyptian government, which have also driven some activists into exile and discouraged others from taking on crucial work.

Egyptian environmental groups have faced growing difficulties in obtaining money, pressure from state authorities, and, in certain situations, difficulty obtaining nongovernmental organizational recognition.

A wide range of additional permits need to be obtained even after a group is established to carry out fieldwork, gather samples, import equipment, and more.

In many regions, Egyptian regulations define border territories very broadly, extending hundreds of kilometers before the actual international border.

The 2019 nongovernmental organization law forbids any activity judged to be “political” and demands government approval before groups can publish the findings of any studies or surveys (without specifying what is meant by political).

Additionally, without first acquiring permission from the government, the 2019 legislation forbids “any activity that requires a license from a government body.”

For instance, even with quasi-professional gear like lighting or reflection tools, it is illegal to take pictures on a street or public place without a license.

Without permission from “the relevant body,” photography is not allowed inside or outside of any government building.

2. Air Pollution

All of Cairo’s primary air pollutants have concentrations that “approach or exceed levels that threaten public health.”

  • Particulate Matter
  • Lead
  • Ozone

1. Particulate Matter

Cairo has the highest quantities of particulate matter of any major city in the world, surpassing health-based criteria by five to 10 times. Particulate matter is a major source of air pollution in Cairo.

While open burning of rubbish, motor vehicles, and naturally occurring sand and dust are some of the other sources of particulate matter, industry is likely the main contributor.

It would be nearly impossible to remove all non-natural contaminants from Cairo’s air because of its desert environment. However, doing so would prevent 90–270 million days of restricted activity and 3,000–16,000 fatalities annually.

2. Lead

Lead is listed as a major contaminant in “all media,” which includes food, water, and the air, in the report submitted to USAID. Although cars and lead smelters are the main sources of airborne lead pollution, lead can also enter water systems, soils, and food.

Although there are lead concentrations in the air in some areas of Cairo that are higher than recommended, what should worry people is the lead that residents of Cairo have in their blood due to constant exposure to the media.

In Cairo in the 1980s, the average blood lead level for adults was approximately 30 ug/dl, somewhat lower for women, and approximately 22 ug/dl for children. However, blood lead levels in Cairo residents who live close to smelters average more than 50 ug/dl, while smelter workers’ levels averaged 80 ug/dl.

The average of 30 ug/dl for all of Cairo is six to seven times higher than the levels found in American adults and children.

The loss of 4.25 IQ points per kid, increased infant mortality from high levels of lead in their mother’s blood, and between 6,000 and 11,000 premature deaths annually are all health effects of these blood lead levels.

“The lead content of playground dust in Cairo often exceeds the US standard for remediation of contaminated soils at abandoned hazardous waste sites,” states the report submitted to USAID.

3. Ozone

When exercising vigorously, healthy people exposed to high amounts of ozone have symptoms including coughing and chest discomfort due to lung irritation and impaired lung function.

Such symptoms may start to appear in asthmatics at much lower concentration levels. “Most of Cairo’s population experiences one to several days per year of mild adverse symptoms caused by ozone,” according to the paper submitted to USAID.

3. Noise Pollution

The 24-hour metropolis of Cairo is experiencing worrying levels of noise pollution, from wedding parties to honking car horns, which is causing health issues.

According to a 2007 study by the Egyptian National Research Centre (NRC), “What’s striking about Cairo is that noise levels on different streets at different times of day are well over limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”

Living in the city center is like spending all day inside a factory, where noise levels average 90 dB and never go below 70 dB. Numerous health issues can be attributed to noise pollution.

4. Microbiological Disease

Among the microbiological illnesses prevalent in Cairo are typhoid fever, infectious hepatitis, and diarrheal disorders. These illnesses account for one in ten fatalities in the general population and up to three in ten in small children.

Environmental variables also affect the occurrence of many diseases, even though non-environmental factors like starvation and inadequate household hygiene play a significant role.

Ensuring that dwellings have enough water for washing and other hygienic practices, as well as providing toilets and sufficient sewerage in every dwelling, are two environmental interventions that could significantly reduce the prevalence of parasitic and infectious diseases.

5. Water Pollution

As the Nile enters Cairo, it’s quite clean. However, the situation changes downstream when Cairo “exports” its industrial and domestic wastes to the north. Cairo’s thoroughly treated drinking water is thought to be rather safe at the source.

But Cairo’s water may pick up a lot of impurities as it passes through the city’s pipes and goes from the tap to the table.

6. Encroachment of Water

A further environmental issue facing those tasked with safeguarding Egypt’s ancient treasures is sea level rise.

For example, the Mediterranean-coast city of Rosetta, where the Rosetta Stone was discovered, may be underwater in a few decades if climate change is not addressed globally.

One location that is in immediate danger of being destroyed is Abu Mena, an early Christian site that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The normally dry and fragile clay that supports the buildings at Abu Mena has become flooded as a result of efforts in recent decades to reclaim the land for agricultural use.

Several overlaying structures have collapsed as a result of the demolition of numerous cisterns scattered across the city, according to UNESCO. Large subterranean caverns have opened up in the town’s northwest.

The authorities had to block off access to some of the most vulnerable buildings, such as the Saint’s tomb in the crypt of Abu Mena, by filling their bases with sand due to the extreme risk of collapse.”

7. Waste Disposal

Approximately two-thirds of the solid waste produced in Cairo is collected by municipal garbage collectors and traditional rubbish collectors, known as zabbalin.

However, the remaining one-third are still homeless, primarily in underprivileged areas. Similar situations may be found in many developing nations’ cities, where between 25% and 50% of solid waste is not collected.

Since uncollected waste attracts rats, flies, and other creatures that may spread infectious diseases, it presents a risk to public health. For the garbage collectors themselves, solid waste could be a far greater health risk.

Solid wastes, medical wastes, and other hazardous wastes do find their way to the Zabbalin community, where people can see kids disassembling used syringes, for example.

8. Development

Site deterioration has been exacerbated by both urban sprawl and tourism, particularly in the Greater Cairo area.

The largest threat to the Giza Plateau’s monuments over the past 25 years has come from development and is the Ring Road, which was envisioned in the 1984 Master Plan for Greater Cairo.

The purpose of the road was to alleviate Cairo’s traffic congestion. The pyramids, the Sphinx, and several lesser-known antiquities are located on the plateau, where it was found to be cutting across multiple protected zones.

UNESCO pulled the pyramids from the World Heritage List to put pressure on the Egyptian government to modify the plans for the Ring Road, as they opposed the road’s intended southern route that would have passed through the necropolis.

The government was compelled to reconsider the highway’s course due to the embarrassment and lack of funds that ensued from the censure, and the pyramids have subsequently been granted recognition as a World Heritage Site.

For many years, Cairo has been intruding upon the Giza plateau. There are currently only a few hundred yards’ worth of apartments due to the population explosion away from the pyramids.

9. Urbanization

With more than 104 million people, Egypt is the most populous nation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) area.

Since vast deserts make up most of Egypt’s terrain, 43.1% of the country’s population lives in cities around the Nile or Mediterranean Sea, such as Cairo, Alexandria, or Aswan.

With 12.3 million residents, Cairo is not just the biggest metropolis in the Arab world, but it’s also one of the densest.

According to CAPMAS data from 2012, the urban population density of the Cairo government was 45,000 people per square kilometer or 117,000 people per square mile. This is Manhattan’s density multiplied by 1.5.

Population density has been a major focus of government policy since it is thought to be the primary cause of many social, economic, and environmental problems, including air and noise pollution, heavy traffic, inadequate housing, and poor public health.

10. Traffic

Cairo’s larger metro area is infamous for its horrendous levels of traffic congestion. At least 1,000 people die in traffic-related incidents each year, half of them are pedestrians, according to the World Bank.

While automobile accidents hurt an additional 4,000 Egyptians. In some cities, like New York City, there are fewer than 300 car accident deaths reported annually.

The increase in traffic is now detrimental to both economic progress and public safety. The average commuting time is 37 minutes, and the average traffic speed is less than 10 km/h. As a result, the city’s productivity and efficiency are being limited by the congestion.

Significant economic consequences have resulted from this, costing Egypt $8 billion a year, or about 4% of GDP, due to missed work hours, wasted fuel, and the extra emissions’ negative environmental effects.

There are numerous reasons for the increasing number of vehicles on the road, including increased bank lending chances, limited public transportation options, and government fuel subsidies.


Egypt is a great place for renewable energy projects since it has a lot of land, bright weather, and strong winds. If the government fixes certain economic incentives, such as adoption subsidies, and reexamines some environmental restrictions, it can readily harness the innovation in climate technology.

Egypt has a fantastic chance to take the lead in fostering growth and bolstering collaboration in relation to liquified natural gas and green hydrogen supplies provided by renewable energy sources between Europe and Africa.

Egypt must adopt a comprehensive strategy that addresses adaptation requirements immediately, accelerates mitigation expenditures, and helps more Egyptians make the transition from hardship to success.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | providenceamaechi0@gmail.com | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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