CAIRO: An unprecedented study identified the positive and negative ecological effects of Cairo’s fourth metro line project, with recommendations to deal with the harmful side affects.
Conducted by Environics, an environmental consulting firm, the study assesses the effects of the metro line’s first phase which stretches from old Cairo’s Al Malek Al Saleh station to Sixth of October city.
Construction on Metro Line 4, which is expected to carry 2 million passengers daily, is scheduled to start in early 2011.
“Overall, the new metro line is expected to have positive environmental, socio-economic impacts mainly due to decreasing traffic congestion in the area, the study said.
These positive impacts include improving air quality, decreasing gas emissions and noise pollution as well as providing better means of transportation for the local community, especially in poor and congested areas, saving transportation time and reducing accidents rates.
The study was divided into effects during the preconstruction and construction phase and effects during the operation and maintenance phase, focusing on air emissions, noise, health and visual impacts, vibration impacts, land acquisitions and resettlement procedures and utility relocation.
Recommendations were given on how to limit these effects both during the planning and management of each phase.
Preconstruction and construction
During this phase, the study identified possible unwanted effects on air quality and sound pollution due to dust accompanying the drilling operations and the usage of various machineries.
This, the study said, would impact soil quality and groundwater due to solid wastes and oil leaks. It would cause a temporary disorder in the services and livelihood of surrounding communities.
The study recommended using machinery in proper condition, and recommended devising solid waste and oil leak management plans as well as coordinating with the Nile Research Institution regarding underwater drilling, monitoring groundwater depth and substituting damaged wells.
The study urged against placing construction machinery near gardens.
It also suggested announcing the timeline of the project to the public and providing them with alternative facilities as well as avoiding privately-owned property whose residents would have to be relocated and compensated.
According to the study, alternatives for infrastructure facilities will have to be made available in coordination with authorities. It is also important to coordinate with traffic authorities to cope with expected congestions due to road blocks during construction.
The study predicted that the impact on traffic will be minimized to seven months as most construction work is underground.
Operation and maintenance
During the operation and maintenance phase, the study predicted, other factors will be the main cause of air and noise pollution as well as traffic flow, such as the crowds gathered in areas surrounding the stations.
The study suggested providing parking lots for private cars and other means of transportation adjacent to the stations to avoid these effects.
“The probable negative effects are mainly limited to the construction phase and can be easily reduced leaving very minor effects that can be considered acceptable and in accordance with Egyptian laws, the study said.
Thus we find the project applicable on condition it considers the impact-reducing procedures and embraces ecological and social dimensions while designing and putting plans, it read.
The fourth line
Out of 240 families surveyed as part of the study, 67 percent did not know about the Greater Cairo Metro Line 4; and 85 percent said the project will have positive impacts, including promoting economic growth.
Phase one of the newly proposed metro line consists of 15 stations; starting from Al Malek Al Saleh station in Line 1 to the first station in Roda Island, Giza Square, Giza Railway station and then six stations along Al Haram street towards Remaya Square, then the Grand Egyptian Museum and to the borders of Sixth of October city.
While phase one of the project is still under research, it is set to take five to seven years to see the light. However, officials are still studying the possibilities of stretching phase two from Al Malek Al Saleh to Al Sawah in the north or to Nasr City in the east.
The project will be executed by the National Authority for Tunnels (NAT) with the technical and financial support of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
We are providing technical cooperation as well as loans; we recommend this project because of its role in supporting sustainable development in the greater Cairo area, JICA’s representative in Egypt said in a session discussing the study.
We will spare no effort in supporting this project, we are also willing to provide Japanese technology and we are now finishing the feasibility study, he added.
Ahmed Dorghamy, a member of Environics’ research team, said that according to recent amendments in environmental laws, any new project – from a grocery shop to a new metro line – should be preceded by an environmental impact assessment.
For the first time governmental, non-governmental, academic and research institutions are involved and people started to feel the importance of social participation, Dorghamy said.
We have learned a lot of positive things that we will capitalize on and negative things that we will try to avoid in the future, he added.
The future looks very promising in this field as people realize the importance of their participation and are more ready for it; I am sure the study for the second phase will be more efficient, more developed and better served, Dorghamy said.
According to the World Bank, Egypt loses more than $400 million every year because of time lost in traffic jams and the increase in the cost of operating vehicles.
Statistics paint a gloomy picture of the transportation and traffic status in Cairo.
While Metro Lines 1 and 2 carry more than 2.7 million passengers every day, there are 22 million trips made by public transportation means per year, and that number is expected to reach 32 million by 2022.
Egypt’s congested streets are crowded with around 2.5 million cars – compared to only 150,000 in 1978. Traffic is expected to exceed roads capacity by 150 percent while it is now estimated at 80 percent.
The average car speed in Cairo is 13 km per hour and is expected to decrease to 11 km per hour by 2011.
In 2004, the number of road accidents reached 7,324 with a rate of 4.8 accidents for every 1,000 cars.
We don t have the luxury of wasting time anymore, Youssef Wasal, general secretary of the governorate of Giza, said.
Projects like these aren t just considered a huge shift in development and transportation but they also have their psychological effects on the people it serves, as they become more comfortable thus more productive at work, he explained.
Ata Al Sherbiny, head of NAT, said that Cairo has a long way to go.
Although Cairo has a population of 17 million, it only has 65.5 km of metro lines while other cities that do not exceed 7 million people have more than 250 km, he said.
That s why the cabinet has ordered new metro lines to be finished as soon as possible, he added.
Phase one and two of the metro s third line are currently under construction stretching from Imbaba to Cairo Airport.
According to Al Sherbiny, this third line would reduce accident rates by 13.5 percent and save LE 1,963 million.
Phase one is set to start operating in 2011 from Attaba to Abbassiya while phase two from Abbassiya to Al-Ahram street in Heliopolis is set to operate in 2013.