CAIRO: The fact-finding committee commissioned by the People’s Assembly (PA) to investigate the case of the Agrium plant, which has raised local ire in Damietta, is expected to submit its findings within days.
The committee is currently in the process of gathering the necessary documentation to present to the assembly in what is the final process before announcing its findings.
Members of the committee met with representatives of Agrium Sunday morning behind closed doors to hear the petrochemical giant’s view in the standoff between the plant and local opposition to the project.
It was reported that the committee found no evidence of illegal commissions that some newspaper reports alleged were paid by the company to facilitate the procurement of the necessary permits to begin the construction of the plant.
However, Minister of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities Ahmed El Maghrabi sent a letter to the committee indicating that the Egyptian Chemical Holding Company (which is a partner in the plant) did not have the right to lease land it owned in Damietta to Agrium because it had reneged on payments it owed to the Housing Ministry, thus conceding its right to rent out the land.
For that reason, Maghrabi added, the ministry’s legal affairs department and the Damietta city council had decided to halt the construction of the plant until a final decision is reached.
Even if the fact finding committee gives the project the go ahead, public opinion against the plant will not abate – neither will the legal tangles, as the Public Funds’ Prosecutor’s office is currently investigating a complaint submitted against the plant by lawyer Essam Sultan.
Sultan claims that permits and approval were secured for the plant by various government entities in an illegal manner.
He accused certain government entities of facilitating the paper work for the plant without going through the proper procedures for this process. He also accused the company building the plant of being complicit in this.
“There was supposed to be an inspection by the General Authority for Industrial Development, upon which later permits should have been given.
This inspection was never carried out. The other bodies were not legally permitted to grant their approvals without this one, yet they did grant their approvals and permits, Sultan told Daily News Egypt two weeks ago.
Civil society in Damietta remains opposed to the construction of the fertilizer plant on the outskirts of the popular tourist destination Ras El Bar.
Residents 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.