EIPR issues study on environmental deterioration in Damietta and its relationship with petrochemical industry

Press Release

11 March 2014

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights issued a study today titled, “Investment without Sustainable Development: Imaginary Profits, Realized losses, a Case Study of the MOPOCO Factory in Damietta.” The study examines environmental degradation in Damietta and its relationship with investment activity there, particularly petrochemical factories, which local residents have dubbed “factories of death.” Local residents have been protesting against the factories for more than five straight years.

The study exposes the environmental deterioration in Damietta caused by flawed development tactics and government policies that have fostered environmentally destructive investment activity in this coastal region, which has had deleterious effects on the environment, the human population and the economy.

The study explains how the existing model of investment focuses on profit and high returns at the expense of social and environmental considerations and thus precludes sustainable development. The study takes the MOPOCO fertilizer plant in Damietta as a case study of undertakings involving high risk and high losses due to an investment model that does not comply with standards for sustainable development. The study chose the MOPOCO plant for analysis because it has been a target of local protest, but the study shows that it is not the only Damietta factory responsible for grave environmental infractions, as documented by reports from the Ministry of Environment.

The study looks at the environmental and legal violations committed by MOPOCO and its misuse of natural resources, particularly water, land and energy, demonstrating the magnitude of the damage it has caused and calculating alternative uses, especially for natural gas, which the company receives at a subsidized rate of one-third the cost while Egyptians suffer from acute energy shortages. This is a flagrant example of the squandering of resources and the failure of purely financial calculations in light of social injustice and the inequitable distribution of the fruits of development.

MOPOCO constitutes a genuine example of the lack of environmental justice and violations of the standards of sustainable development. Based on this example, the study urges the adoption of an alternate mode of development. Indeed, there is no alternative to real sustainable development, in which environmental and social considerations support and concord with economic concerns. The poor must not pay the price of development with their health or living conditions.

The study recommends shifting current investment practices to comply with and promote the rules and standards of sustainable development and to direct investment opportunities to this end, in order to protect the environment, preserve resources and eliminate poverty.