While preparations are underway for the “COP27” climate conference, the government is still sticking to its appeal against the ruling of the Administrative Court of Aswan, in the two lawsuits 1685 for judicial year 4 and 4652 for judicial year 4, obligating the government to take the necessary measures to prevent the discharge of sewage and industrial waste, in the exit of the flood in Aswan, leading to the Nile River, and the consequences of that, most notably the immediate cessation of the causes of pollution and their removal. No hearing has been set for the government’s appeal yet.
Lawyers for the Litigation Unit for Environmental Rights, at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, denounce the government’s appeal against the ruling, which also stipulated the dismissal of the subsidiary lawsuit, submitted by the Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources and the Governor of Aswan in their respective capacities.
The two lawsuits, which were submitted by a number of citizens of Aswan Governorate earlier, through their legal representative Hamdi Al-Harzawy, the representative of the Bar Association in the governorate, concluded: The President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Housing, Irrigation, Environment and Finance, the Governor of Aswan, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Holding Company for Drinking Water and Sanitation, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Aswan Drinking Water and Sanitation Company, and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Egyptian Company for Chemical Industries “Kima” in all their capacities.
According to the rationale of the judgment – issued on February 28, 2021 – the plaintiffs demanded, as a matter of urgency, to stop the discharge of untreated sewage from the outfall pipes of the flood outlet, called “Kima Canal”, to the mouth of the Nile River, from the side of the entrance to the city of Aswan, next to Coca-Cola Factory.
The two lawsuits – filed between 2016 and 2017 – made it clear that the defendants did not care about the health and environmental impact of these solid materials, and the carcinogens, that the wastewater contains. They harmed the dispensing of it directly into the depth of the Nile, which caused the spread of diseases and epidemics among the citizens of the governorate, most notably kidney failure, while they submitted complaints to the defendants, but they did not do anything.
According to the reasons, the flood outlet, after its closure, turned into a waste dump, swallowing 120,000 cubic meters per day, and from there to the Nile River. This was preceded by the filing of Case 14 of 1996 for urgent cases in Aswan, in order to request proof of the state of the flood outlet and the polluting bodies. The court assigned an expert who established in his report the parties responsible for this crime, and confirmed the judgment of Appeal No. 40 of 1998, a civilian appealed, but the defendants continued to procrastinate.
Although the citizens obtained a promise to solve the problem no later than the end of March 2017, this did not happen, which is a clear violation of the provisions of the Constitution and Law 48 of 1982 regarding the protection of the Nile River, and the document for the protection of the Nile River signed on April 23, 2015.
The memorandum submitted by the Director of Irrigation Engineering in Aswan indicated that the Water and Sanitation Company encroached on the benefits of irrigation, by placing pipes in the waterway of the mouth of the main stream outlet in Aswan on the right bank of the Nile River, and closing the outlet over the pipes with sheets of iron, without taking the necessary measures, and without extracting licenses from the General Administration of Irrigation and the General Administration for the Protection and Development of the Nile River. In addition, untreated sewage was discharged into the exit of Al-Sail from the “K5.500” station, Kima station (1, 2), Al-Jazeera station (5), Kima station (7), and Nasiriyah station. And the Irrigation Engineering in Aswan released a large number of violations and removal records, dated 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
It was also proven from the report prepared, with the knowledge of the Environmental Affairs Agency on April 13, 2017, that Lifting Station No. 10 collects sewage and industrial wastewater from the Kima Company, and a number of surrounding residential areas, to be drained directly into the flood drain at peak times, due to technical defects in the station.
In a judicial precedent, which is the first of its kind, the court moved with all its members to inspect the torrent bank on the ground, with a length of 8 kilometers from south to north, in implementation of the Evidence Law, refusing to assign the matter to any technical authority, or to the expert office, until it is assured of the correctness of its ruling. The aforementioned facts were confirmed by the examination conducted by the court.
The court clarified that the administration’s failure to intervene as stipulated by law constitutes a negative and contrary decision, urging the abolition mandate held for the judiciary of the State Council, which is nothing but the argument that the court has no jurisdiction to consider the case in a misplaced manner and must be rejected.
The court stressed that the Egyptian constitution stipulates the state’s obligation to protect the Nile, not polluting its waters, encroaching on its sanctity, or harming the river environment, as well as the citizen’s right to health and clean water. Law 48 of 1982 prohibits the disposal or dumping of waste into waterways, with periodic analysis of treated waste samples in facilities licensed to drain into waterways, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Health. If it is found that the samples represent an immediate danger to the pollution of the Nile streams, the person concerned shall be notified to remove the causes of the damage immediately.
The court added that it was appalled by the continued failure of officials in the defendant’s administrative authorities to enforce the law, and the continuation of these grave violations for more than 20 years, and the contention of writing records of violations and removal decisions without implementation.
The court stressed that the administration’s rebuttal behavior by refraining from stopping and removing the causes of violations that cause pollution of the Nile River, in contravention of the provisions of the constitution and the law, is tainted by the defect of abuse and deviation in the use of power, as it is a course that pursued goals that are not related to the public interest, and are not equivalent to other goals and interests. Society is the first and most worthy of care, and this course costs the state treasury huge sums of money to provide health services and medical care to the patients as a result of this pollution.
She also indicated that preserving water is a national duty, especially in its largest source, the Nile River, not to revive or develop the land alone, but to ensure the minimum health conditions for all citizens, and to preserve water resources from their pollutants. Its size is increasing with the passage of time, and has become fraught with significant risks that affect the vital interests of successive generations.
The center confirms that the memorandum prepared with the knowledge of irrigation engineering in Aswan, and the minutes of violations and removals that it edited, as well as the report submitted by the Environmental Affairs Agency, acknowledged the validity of the aforementioned facts, at a time when the governorate repudiated responsibility, and the administration presented the results of analyzes stating that the water samples taken matched the water samples taken. From the sites of violations of environmental requirements, inconsistent with the results of the Ministry of Irrigation and Environment. While the government representative appealed the ruling, which indicates that there is a clear confusion in coordination between government agencies, regarding the party responsible for these violations, which requires the existence of a unified ministerial body to coordinate on similar issues.
The Center explained that the work philosophy of the State Litigation Authority is supposed to be based on representing the government before the courts, in a way that does not conflict with the public interest, which calls for the need to inquire about the reasons for filing an appeal against a judicial ruling that executive officials should have implemented immediately.
The Center stressed that the degrees of litigation should not be a means to procrastinate, or to shirk responsibility from these matters of great importance, very dangerous, calling for rethinking the legal representation of government bodies before the various courts, and dealing with cases related to environmental issues, as reports for immediate investigation. And not allocating a representative to defend the government in order to obstruct its implementation.
The center pointed out that citizens are not supposed to resort to filing lawsuits in this regard, unless there is a real danger to the public interest, which necessarily means that those responsible for removing violations will not perform their assigned role. Therefore, resorting to the judiciary in these cases can be interpreted as an appeal to the judiciary regarding the failure of some executive officials to carry out their duties in protecting citizens.
The center called for the need for a clear strategy to deal with environmental issues, by allocating urgent departments to decide on them, as well as defining clear rules for organizing appeals against them, as it is unreasonable for a ruling in a case related to the life and health of citizens to take more than 5 years.
Hamdi Al-Harzawy, Undersecretary of the Aswan Bar Association, explained that the government’s appeal against the ruling before the Supreme Administrative Court has not been set for a session so far, justifying its resort to this procedure as a means to obstruct the implementation of the ruling. As well as its unwillingness to bear additional financial burdens by diverting the path of sewage and industrial waste disposal away from the Nile River.
The Egyptian Center stressed that while the government announced in its report issued in June 2022, addressed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that it needs a budget of 246 billion dollars to confront the effects of climate change, especially on the Nile River, which is one of the most threatened hot spots, by being directly affected by these effects by 2050, while it is taking a reverse internal path, by inserting itself as an adversary in cases related to the protection of the Nile River itself, at a time when it would have been more beneficial for it to act immediately to deal with these violations even before they reach the corridors of the courts.
The Egyptian Center calls on all the competent authorities to reconsider the appeal of the ruling, and instead proposes setting a timeline to end the problem and provide the necessary funding to enforce the ruling’s requirement, in order to preserve water from pollution, at a time when we need every drop of water from our water resources. As well as to preserve the health of citizens and fish wealth.
The Center believes that the problem is solvable, in light of the new State’s strategy in confronting climate changes and preserving the environment, and that preserving the Nile is an issue that calls for concerted and integrated efforts to prevent any damage to the Nile’s water.
The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights had launched the campaign (The Safety Road – The Road to COP27) in conjunction with the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP27), to be held in Sharm El Sheikh, South Sinai Governorate, from the sixth to the eighteenth of November next.
The campaign – which will continue for 100 days – focuses on a number of axes that aim to contribute to confronting the negative effects of climate change, and its effects on economic and social rights, especially in Egypt, which is one of the countries most exposed to the risks resulting from these effects, and calls for the adoption of mechanisms and measures. crucial to reduce it.
The first axis of the campaign includes raising awareness of the effects of climate change and its repercussions on economic and social rights in a number of sectors, including: health, industry, agriculture, transportation, marine activities, and others, as well as its effects on workers in these sectors.
The second axis deals with litigation procedures in cases related to environmental rights, in light of the government’s commitments to its roleregarding international conventions and treaties signed in this framework.
The third axis of the campaign deals with the extent of the government’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions, which is the main axis of the Conference of Parties. The fourth axis also includes redefining Egypt’s commitments to environmental issues and climate change, through international agreements signed to them, and the internal legislative framework in this regard.
The Egyptian Center is launching the “Safety Road – The Road to COP27” campaign, based on its belief in the necessity of urgent action to confront the negative effects of climate change, and the priority of environmental protection issues in this critical period, provided that it ends with a set of recommendations and proposals submitted by specialists, to be submitted to the concerned parties, which participates in the climate conference.