Past, present and future perspectives

Towards improving air quality in Northern Africa

In 1991, having identified the major sources and established levels of emissions of the major air contaminants, the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE) adopted the concept of sustainable development as the basis for development in the 21st century. Control of air pollution, especially in urban centres, was identified as one of the main objectives in Algeria, Libya and Morocco. More liberal trade policies and the increased production of more affordable vehicles will lead to the gradual replacement of highly polluting, older vehicles. Another target that is expected to be of higher priority is the reduction of the sulphur content of fuels. Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia have included electrified railways in their transportation infrastructures and Egypt has built an underground metro system that has made a considerable contribution to reducing surface mass public transit thus reducing emissions from vehicles.

Industrial pollution abatement initiatives have been introduced in Northern Africa and have begun to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. For example, conversion of industrial enterprises to natural gas has been financed. In Tunisia, a solar water-heating project will promote commercialization of solar water heating technology in the residential sector. A repowering project in Morocco has also been approved but is awaiting construction of a natural gas pipeline from the Algeria-Portugal pipeline. Other projects at the preparation stage include solar, wind, and waste-to-energy projects in Algeria, Egypt and Morocco.

In Egypt, the Cairo Air Improvement Project (CAIP) aims to initiate and implement measures to reduce air pollutants that have the most serious impacts on human health in Greater Cairo, especially suspended particulates and lead (see Box 2a.1). The CAIP will also monitor the effectiveness of pollution abatement schemes implemented by the Egyptian Environment Affairs Agency, CAIP, and other organizations.

Box 2a.1 The Cairo Air Improvement Project

Recognising the seriousness of air pollution, the Egyptian government has embarked on a comprehensive programme to improve air quality throughout Egypt. In 1993, the country's Ministry of Petroleum introduced unleaded fuel as a part of this programme and within two years 85 per cent of the country's fuel supply was converted. The Cairo Air Improvement Project (CAIP), set up in 1997 and tasked with monitoring ambient air quality, reported that levels of airborne lead in Cairo had decreased by up to 88 per cent in just one year. Other initiatives under the project include testing of compressed natural gas as an alternative to diesel for public buses, and running a public awareness campaign.

Source: USAID 2001a