CAIRO: Agrium has stated that the petrochemical plant it is building in Damietta will stay despite local opposition to the location.
A press conference will be held today to unequivocally present the Canadian company’s position on the furor that has surrounded the plant.”The company will not move from Damietta, and any talk about an alternative site in Ain Sokhna is not true, as it was the Egyptian partner, namely The Egyptian Company for Petrochemicals, that had suggested Damietta when the Canadian partner (Agrium) requested a proposed site in the initial stages of the project, Agrium’s Regional Adviser Mona Zaki told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
It is understood that the Canadian company refuses to relocate the nitrogen plant because of the presence of a marine pier in the area, as well as an abundance of water and natural gas.
Agrium Egypt had previously denied to Daily News Egypt that the plant would be relocated, and their project director Khaled Salama insisted it “has more safety features than any other petrochemical plant in Egypt. It is six kilometers away from any residential area and contains all the necessary safety procedures.
Al-Wafd reported that construction was still underway on the special dock for Agrium at the pier, and that construction was also ongoing at the plant site despite government assurances that construction had been halted, albeit temporarily until a parliamentary fact finding mission was conducted.
Residents of Damietta are angry about the plant being built six kilometers from their homes and a local movement has been organized to lobby for its relocation. Aside from the environmental concerns, there is also a concern over the impact on tourism in the area, which is a vital source of revenue.
Assistant Minister of Tourism Abdel Mohaymen Saad told the parliamentary fact finding committee that the ministry was opposed to the construction of the plant in Ras El Bar in Damietta, as that would conflict with the touristic value of the area.
The committee requested that construction be halted until it submits its report to parliament leader Fathi Sorour in two weeks time and also heavily criticized Tourism Minister Zuheir Garana and Environment Minister Maged George for not personally attending the committee’s sessions.
Additionally, the committee – headed by MP Mustapha El Katatny – requested the presence of Irrigation Minister Mahmoud Abu Zeid to question him over his decision to allow 5.1 million cubic meters of Nile water to be routed to the plant despite the minister’s assertions in parliament that Egypt is facing a water crisis.
Last month, 2,000 Damietta residents marched against the construction of what they labelled the “factory of death.
“Agrium is an Egyptian company, as the Egyptian government owns 33 percent of it. It is one of the best projects in Egypt, and we as advisers for the project assure the people of Damietta that we did not come to harm them because we are Egyptians too. This project will put Egypt on the world map in the field of fertilizers, Zaki said.
“For Damietta, I don’t think it’s a suitable location regardless of the type of factory, because it is a fragile environment, Vice President of the Association for the Protection of the Environment Salah El Haggar previously told Daily News Egypt. He had recommended the plant be relocated to Ain Sokhna.