The Doctors’ Syndicate announced on Saturday its solidarity with the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) in the latter’s lawsuit against the use of coal as a fuel source.
In a statement released on its official website, the syndicate called on interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb to prevent the import of coal to be used by cement factories.
The government approved coal usage after a cabinet meeting on 2 April, despite the disapproval of Minister of Environment Laila Iskander, in an attempt to address the country’s energy shortage, which worsens in the summer.
The Doctors’ Syndicate highlighted the negative impact the use of coal has on health and the environment. It called for the cabinet to turn to the use of clean alternative energy sources such as solar and nuclear energy.
The syndicate vowed to take part in “popular events” calling for the reversal of the decision to use coal. It said it will collect signatures from citizens against the use of coal and that syndicate representatives will attend the next court session in the lawsuit calling upon Mehleb to reverse the decision.
In February, the ECESR filed a lawsuit at the administrative court against interim Mehleb, President Adly Mansour, and the Ministers of Trade, Petroleum, Electricity, and Environmental Affairs.
The court case was postponed until 10 May, when Iskanadar is expected to testify in court. The environment minister has long campaigned against the use of coal as an energy source.
On Wednesday, Iskandar met with the Ministers of Petroleum and Electricity when the three decided to form a committee to follow up on the regulatory updates for coal usage in Egypt. The committee will be responsible for setting up each ministry’s duties.
The Doctors’ Syndicate organised a symposium last week showcasing the negative effects of the government’s plans to use coal for energy on the health of Egyptians and the environment. Secretary-General of the Cairo Doctors’ Syndicate Ehab El-Taher said the decision to rely on coal for energy “will only benefit businessmen, while the damage will affect the poor”.
Experts, activists, and rights groups fear the damage burning coal will cause to the environment. Coal is the most pollutant among all traditional sources of energy and burning it will increase carbon dioxide emissions.
Assurances from the government on 3 April that it plans to use the “latest technologies” to reduce harmful emissions to the lowest possible levels were still not enough to quell criticism. The government also said it would impose a tax on coal usage and work on amending laws to tighten penalties on violating environmental standards.