Monday, October 5, 2009

Suez Canal Pollution

Suez Canal sees growing environment problems

28 September 2009

egypt-suez-canalCAIRO: Over the past four months, the waters of the Suez Canal have witnessed 10 environmental violations that have seen more than 30 million Egyptian pounds ($5.25 million) lost, damaged coral reefs and fishers and is affecting the tourism boom in Egypt, the Suez Canal Authority said. The authority reported this week that pollution is becoming a growing problem for the canal as oil tanker accidents have put the waters in danger.

The latest incident was the sinking of Panamanian ship “Elly,” which is now at the bottom of the basin area of Al Adabbiya near the city of Suez. An estimated 60 thousand tons of diesel fule have leaked from the ship and environmental organizations are now crying foul.

The authority said in statements carried in local newspaper that much of the damage to the area is the result of “delinquency.”

The waterway of the Suez Canal is one of the narrower shipping lanes dedicated to the passage of ships and supertankers. The Egyptian government says that as a result, any petroleum contamination is detrimental to the impact on the surrounding water and the effects of such negligence spreads rapidly because of the high-speed marine currents, which helps the spread of oil spills for long distances, which results in affecting other places than the initial incident itself.

An official source at the Suez Canal Authority stressed that the pollution problem remains at the top of a list of problems that impede the process of aquaculture development in the canal zone, which leads to the deterioration of fish production, both quantitatively and qualitatively. The authority pointed to the latest research and confirmed the “vulnerability of agricultural drainage water owing to the dumping of 3.5 million tons of fertilizer and 20 thousand tons of pesticides as well as the industrial waste.”

The official also said that the high value of the feed for animals is one the constraints that results from fish farming. He added that farmers use “conventional feed, livestock feed, or mixtures innovated by farmers, leading to low quality of fish,” stressing that evidence of pollution is on the surface, “but there are remains of pollutants in the place of fish, which leads to the destruction of the food chain, starting from marine plants and even large fish, leading to the lack of fish production.”

An earlier report by the Central Auditing Agency of Ismailia Governorate, also revealed that the sewage and drainage, loaded with all kinds of pesticides, chemicals and hormones are being deposited in the waterways of the Suez Canal and which represent the main sources of fishing conservation. The report added that this area is surrounded by Ismailia beaches and is leading to “wasting huge quantities of water … an estimated 3 million cubic meters per day.”

The report says that in Ismailia all prohibited and non-prohibited pesticides, seeds, chemicals and hormones are used whether its sources were known or not, “although these materials seep into the groundwater flowing through agricultural banks in the waterway of the canal.”

These 10 violations and oil pollution that has been reported in recent months have left government agencies in a frenzy. The Egyptian Environmental Action Agency told Bikya Masr in a phone conversation that “we are working diligently to clean up the area and are calling on all companies with a role in the Canal and Red Sea to take immediate action.”

The question is, will they be able to resolve the environmental impacts before it is too late?

Bikya Misr

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