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Egypt tackles littering with harsher penalties

June 5, 2014
A young child sits in a pile of trash on the streets of Moqqatam, a suburb of Cairo which is home to a people known as the Zabaleen, which means, plainly enough, “the garbage collectors”. They are said to be the world’s greatest recyclers yet the Zabaleen also live in extreme urban squalor. Credit: Peter Dench

In a wave of new laws issued just 48 hours before leaving office, Egypt’s Interim President Adly Mansour has introduced stricter penalties for littering and illegal dumping of garbage.

The President’s latest decree impacts the Public Hygiene Law (1967), toughening fines related to the dumping of construction, demolition or excavation material on public roads, bridges, railway tracks, archaeological sites, the Nile River, beaches and coastlines and any other areas not designated for the dumping of waste.

Those found guilty of such illegal dumping of waste face a fine ranging from EGP 20,000 to EGP 100,000.

Meanwhile, the amendments have empowered local authorities to fine pedestrians for littering – a widespread problem in Egypt. The fine for littering can now range between EGP 200 and EGP 5,000. Repeat violators will face double the fine.

According to the President’s spokesperson, the law aims to safeguard the environment, create better living standards and deter littering by the average citizen.

Egypt’s pollution problem


Egypt is one of the most polluted countries in the world, with the World Health Organization reporting in 2007 that breathing the air in Cairo for just one day, is equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes.

The WHO added that pollution costs the government more than 5 percent of their annual gross domestic product in environmental damage.

Meanwhile, a 2010 report by Al-Masry Al-Youm found that at least 250,000 tons of garbage were dumped into the Nile River at Minya. The illegal dumping of waste in the Nile river and across the country is not an uncommon occurrence.

Moreover, in a recent controversial effort to face the energy crisis, Egypt’s government announced that it had approved the use of coal for power generation. The Ministry of Environment said the move would have serious consequences, but other officials explain that the use of coal by factories, particularly cement factories, would reduce pressure on Egypt’s energy grid.

Nevertheless, Egypt’s efforts to safeguard the environment have been boosted in the past year, with laws such as this signalling a potential change to the lax attitude taken by authorities towards littering and illegal dumping.

Comments (17)

  1. Bystanding Witness says:

    Harsher penalties doesn’t do the trick although it may help. What is really needed is to ENFORCE the penalties. What would equally help are litter bins along the road and proper garbage containers where people can dispose of their garbage.
    When I go for a walk with my dog I always carry plastic bags with me to pick up his poop and dispose either at the next garbage bin or at home. How often did people tell me – “never mind” and how often did I see them look at me as if I have two heads while grinning. The best yet was when I realized that “my” little blue “robby dog bags” were littering the street … they emptied the garbage bin and half of the content was strewn on the street!!
    Equally disturbing is the drive on the ring road from Moneib Bridge to the Pyramids. Between Mariouteya and Mansoureya Canal the whole ring road is one big garbage dump. Every now and then the government made an effort to clean it – the next day new piles were offloaded; clearly dumped by trucks!! This has increased ever since Morsi has been kicked out of office. Why is it not possible for the government to clean that stretch (and others) and place police there for a while?
    What’s even more needed is creating awareness among the people. Egypt WAS NOT that way when I came here the first time some 25 yrs ago. Egyptians know better.
    So what’s the idea behind this whole mess?! After all, Egyptians don’t do this in their private home either – so why do it in public? The whole country is our home!! Please get your acts together and clean up!!!

  2. About time too! I remember when I lived there seeing my brother-in-law empty all the litter in his car out on the street. I went mad and picked it all up and took it home to bin it, as I couldn’t see a bin. Egypt is a lovely country but the litter ruins it. Come on people pick litter up and dispose of it properly.

    1. Hasmik Gevorgyan says:

      thats what i do here all the time. and people laugh at me….

    2. Minymina says:

      People like that deserve to live in filth.