CAIRO: The entire gamut of civil society in Damietta remains opposed to the construction of the Agrium fertilizer plant on the outskirts of the popular tourist destination Ras El Bar.
“All civil society, MPs and local authorities are united against the construction of this project in Ras El Bar, Mohammed Khalil Kwaiteh, a member of parliament representing a Damietta district, told Daily News Egypt.
“We are not against the project itself, Kwaiteh explained, “but Ras El Bar is a divine gift. There is no other place surrounded on two sides by the Mediterranean Sea and a third by the Nile. It is a possible protected site, so we refuse any industry in such a place except tourism.
That is one of the objections of the local populace to the location of the plant. Since Ras El Bar is surrounded by water on three sides, there is only one direction in which it might expand residentially or otherwise.
The proposed site of the factory falls in this direction, right outside the gates of Ras El Bar, six kilometers from the nearest residential area. If Ras El Bar – a popular tourist destination for Egyptians – is to expand, it would find the factory in its path.
Residents of Damietta are angry about the plant being built so close to 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.
Nasser El Emary, head of the popular committee opposing the construction of the plant, told Daily News Egypt that he possesses 400 documents on why the plant should not be built in its present location.
Kwaiteh, who is affiliated with the ruling National Democratic Party, stressed that this was a cause on which all residents of Damietta were united.
“These types of projects shouldn’t begin until after the approval of civil society in the area, Kwaiteh said, “For the World Bank to grant a loan for such a project, this approval must be met. It is not met here.
Lawyers in Damietta went on strike Thursday to protest what they perceived as government dillydallying over the fate of the project and possibly ignoring the wishes of the local residents.
Additionally, 150 representatives of NGOs, trade unions and activists signed a petition that also reflected the united stance of Damietta residents against the plants’ proposed location.
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.
“The construction of Agrium in Damietta is refused even if it is environmentally friendly, it can be built anywhere else, Kwaiteh said.