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Managing Waste in Cities - Cairo, Egypt

Winner of the Guradian's photo competition, a lady sifts through rubbish in New Dehli

The problem of waste in cities
Human beings create an incredible amount of waste, and the problem seems to be even worse within our cities.  If you think about your own home, you can consider the amount of waste that needs to be dealt with.  On a weekly basis you or the council needs to deal with:
Your refuse and general waste from your bins, plastics, metals, food wastes;
Waste water from cleaning, dishwashers, washing machines

Waste Water from your toilet
Emissions from your energy needs

Imagine now that this needs to be repeated for thousands of people in your town, or tens of thousands/ hundreds of thousands/millions of people in your city!
This doesn't include any of the wastes from the
industrial processes that take place in cities either.  In MEDCs our cities are not growing so fast or their growth has slowed, and we have had many decades to establish organised systems to get rid of our waste. In LEDCs the problem is much more difficult to deal with, especially given the rapid growth of these cities and the informal nature of some of the development, where people construct their own homes in squatter or shanty developments. One such LEDC city is Cairo. All of this ties in with the issue of sustainability, can we continue to produce so much waste and not expect consequences? Find out more about sustainability on the year 9 page (includes some fantastic games!)

Cairo Case study - managing waste in a city.

Cairo is located to the east of the River Nile. This built up area has an airport to the north and to the east of the built up area is Eastern desert. This poses as a problem because the area now cannot expand to the west, due to the Nile and cannot expand to the east due to the desert region. The only way is north or south. It has grown from 4.5million in  1960 to 16million people in 2000.

Some of the urban Features of Cairo

Cairos main problem is overcrowding, and due to this overcrowding it means there is a great problem with pollution. Cairo is overcrowded for two reasons:

          people have moved from rural areas to the urban city in search of jobs and a better lifestyle

          the life expectancy has risen due to advances in medical care from 41yrs to 64 yrs

 Cairo's rapid population influx now means that there is over 30,000 people per square kilometre.

This increase in population has lead to an increase in pollution:





Fumes from Cairos 2 million vehicles combined with suspended particulate matter plus sand blown into urban areas, the concentration of air particulates is 5-10 times higher in Cairo than the recommended average. This is worst in the industrial areas and Cairo Old Town- this causes high blood pressure kidney problems, infertility and an IQ drop it kills 10-25000 people

Gas emissions are 5-10 times higher than WHO recommends

Changed to  unleaded petrol

Cairo Air Improvement Project has monitoring stations and car checks (see USAID site). it has 36 monitoring stations funded by US aid which gives $60 million. Have produced a programme that reduces the emissions from air filters- new equipment and smelters and relocation of factories; they also have vehicle emission testing randomly.


10,000 tonnes of waste left on the steets
Waste incinerators broken
Inadequate health waste disposal
Hazardous waste is helped to spread by rats and other vermin

Cairo Cleaning and Beautification Agency only collect 60% of waste


Cars in rush hour traffic mean roads are gridlocked throughout the day and night

Night clubs open late

Boats on river can generate a huge amount of noise.

Metro-system to reduce cars

Banned the use of nightclub boats on the River Nile

Land use within Cairo

Find out more

1) Attempt this graphing task, you will need to use Excel for this.

2) take notes on this full guide to pollution in Cairo

Read more: Cyberschool bus notes on Cairo

Dealing with waste in Cairo