Lawsuit against Titan Cement Factory in Alexandria for using coal

Press Release

11 January 2016

Community members of Wadi el-Qamar in Alexandria filed a lawsuit against Alexandria Portland Cement Factory (Titan) because the factory operating in the heart of a large residential area uses coal for fuel, which aggravates the already existing environmental pollution from cement dust. This indeed intensifies health and environment problems that have a toll on the area.

In the lawsuit filed before administrative courts in Alexandria, 3 Jan.2016, the community filed charges against the factory administration, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Environment, and the Governor of Alexandria. They demanded the suspension of execution and revocation of the environmental decision permitting the factory to use coal. They also demanded suspension of the execution and revocation of the Prime Minister’s decree amending the executive statutes implementing the Environment Law, permitting the use of coal in factories in residential areas. The proceedings were predicated on the violation by the administrative decision of the Law, the Constitution, and international conventions, signed by Egypt, protecting and respecting the right to health and to a clean environment.

The Prime Minister had issued Decree no.964/2015 amending the executive regulations implementing the Environment Law, which provided for terms and conditions for the use of coal. Amendment of paragraph 1(d), Article 42, states that under necessary conditions and where public interest is served, enterprises established in residential areas may use coal, after the approval of the Council of Ministers. This provision contradicts the old executive statutes, which prohibited the use of coal in residential areas categorically and without any exceptions.

Dr. Ragia Elgerzawy, the environment researcher of EIPR said, “We cannot fathom the considerations of ‘necessity and serving public interest’ which could justify damaging the health and livelihoods of thousands who have lived in this area for decades. This is in light of the ability of international companies, such as Titan, which achieve high profits, to use cleaner and less polluting fuels.”

The lobby of cement companies, have lead a campaign to pressure the permission of the use of coal as part of the energy mix in Egypt, in order to preserve the very high profits – gained for so many years. During those years, these companies received inexpensive subsidized natural gas. It is well known that coal is the most polluting and hazardous among traditional fuels. It is also the highest in sulfur and mercury, and generates high levels of nitrogen in addition to carcinogenic organic pollutants, let alone the scores of tons of respiratory micro particles. All such substances are severely hazardous to health, given the fallacy that modern technologies are able to hold all such emissions or preclude their hazards – as proven by scientific research.

It is noteworthy that the community members in Wadi el-Qamar suffer currently from the emissions of the Titan factory, particularly since the new furnace was constructed nearby their houses. There are many complaints and cases already filed against the factory as a result of the cement dust that caused high incidence of chest infections and asthma among adults and children. Taking into consideration the current rates of pollution combined with the weakness of environment control bodies, the high burden laid on the community members becomes very clear.