In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Flavia Palanza, director of facility for Euro-Mediterranean investment and partnership at the European Investment Bank (EIB), said that the Alexandria West Wastewater Treatment Plant project will support the depollution of two main environmental hotspots identified in the Egyptian National Action Plan National Action Plan for Sustainable Consumption and Production (NAP), which was developed in the framework of the Land-Based Pollution Protocol of the Barcelona Convention.
On the sidelines of the COMESA Investment Forum, the EIB signed a grant agreement with MIIC for the Alexandria West Wastewater Treatment Plant. How much is the grant worth and how will it be used?
Indeed, I signed a contribution agreement with Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr to provide a €400,000 grant for the Alexandria West Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). The grant will be used to provide advisory and technical assistance to prepare the full technical, environmental, financial, and economic feasibility studies for the expansion and upgrade of the Alexandria West WWTP.
The signing is an example of the growing cooperation between Egypt and the European Investment Bank in the area of water and wastewater, both in urban and rural regions across the country.
We have been offering both our financing and advisory support to many projects in this important sector. Examples of projects that we financed and provided technical assistance to are the Egypt Pollution Abatement Programme (EPAP) to support the financing of industrial pollution abatement schemes in Alexandria and Cairo, the Kafr El-Sheikh Waste Water Treatment Project to support the implementation of the expansion of sewage collection and treatment systems in Kafr El-Sheikh governorate, the Improved Water and Wastewater Programme (IWSP I) in the governorates of Beheira, Sharqia, Gharbia, and Damietta of the Nile Delta region, as well as the second Improved Water and Wastewater Programme (IWSP II) in the governorates of Qena, Sohag, Assiut, and Minya in Upper Egypt.
Access to clean water and sanitation for all is one of the key priorities of the Government of Egypt for the socioeconomic development of the country. Supporting vital infrastructure that helps improve living standards is also one of the priorities of the European Investment Bank under the Economic Resilience Initiative (ERI).
Better economic and social infrastructure will help make countries better prepared to respond to shocks, whether they are economic, political, or naturally induced, such as droughts, flooding, or earthquakes. Eventually this will enhance the prospects for more resilient and inclusive growth in Egypt and in the region.
Can you elaborate more on the Alexandria project? What does it involve?
The European Investment Bank works together with Egyptian authorities to provide technical assistance and advisory support for the extension and upgrade of the Alexandria West Wastewater Treatment Plant. Alexandria West WWTP is currently treating the wastewater from nearly 2 million people of the almost 5 million people living in Alexandria and is one of two plants in the city.
The Alexandria West WWTP currently only provides primary treatment for the wastewater and discharges the effluent (circa 410,000 cubic metres per day) in a small section of Lake Maryut, which is then discharged via a canal and the El Mex Pumping Station to El Mex Bay, which is part of the Mediterranean Sea. The effluent from the Alexandria East WWTP follows the same discharge route. This has resulted in high pollution in the drains of Lake Maryut, as well as El Mex Bay that is connected to the Mediterranean Sea. Home to fishery communities in the past, Lake Maryut is today one of the most polluted lakes in Egypt and considered nearly dead. El Mex Bay is also highly polluted.
Since operation of the secondary treatment in Alexandria East WWTP started this year, it is now a priority of the Government of Egypt to also improve the treatment in Alexandria West WWTP.
The plant started operation in 1993 and is nearing its design capacity. An extension and upgrade of the WWTP will ensure safe disposal of the wastewater of an expected 2.8 million people in the future.
What is the impact of this project? Does it have externalities?
The overall goal of the project is to contribute towards an efficient and sustainable water resources management system in Egypt, as well as to Egyptian climate action efforts. The project will contribute to the environmentally sound disposal and utilisation of effluent and sludge as well as energetically optimised and environmentally sound sludge treatment.
On a regional scale, this project will support the depollution of Lake Maryut, El Mex Bay, and the Mediterranean Sea and thus improve the economic situation for fishery, agriculture/forestry and tourism in the area. Also, this project will improve the health and environmental situation of the people living in the Governorate of Alexandria.
The treated effluent will potentially be used as an additional water source in various forms of agriculture/forestry and as such reduce the pressure on existing water sources in an already water-scarce country. Currently, the effluent is not safe to be used for agricultural irrigation.
Besides, the project should generate energy from biogas during the treatment of the sludge and thus minimise the emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The feasibility of this option is being assessed.
The expansion and upgrade of the plant will serve the needs of 2.8 million people in Alexandria up to the year 2050.
What will be the total cost of the project? Will you finance it?
The cost of the project will be determined by the feasibility study and funded through the €400,000 grant I signed in Sharm El-Sheikh. A rough estimate of the construction cost is €200m. Depending on the outcome of the feasibility study, we hope to get a decision on financing the expansion and upgrade of the Alexandria West WWTP next year.
How does the EIB provide advisory services to its projects?
Thanks to our relationship with the European Union, we can use European Union grants to provide technical and advisory services to our projects. As part of the EU’s contribution to the “Investments for Pollution Reduction” component of the Horizon 2020 Initiative, aiming at depolluting the Mediterranean Sea by the year 2020 through environmental investments, capacity building, monitoring, and research, the Mediterranean Hotspot Investment Programme (MeHSIP) was set up. It is a European Union programme providing support for the preparation of investment projects in the water and environmental sectors of the Southern Mediterranean countries. MeHSIP is EIB-managed and generously funded by the EU through the Support to the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP) Fund, and, together with the Neighbourhood Investment Facility, is an essential support for our joint efforts in supporting the Egyptian water and wastewater sectors.
The grant for the preparation of the Alexandria West WWTP project comes from Climate Action in the Middle East and North Africa (CAMENA). CAMENA is a dedicated climate action envelope provided by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK to the FEMIP Fund, providing grants to support early-stage concepts and preparatory studies to become bankable projects. It is facilitating project planning and preparation to build capacity in various public and private institutions for designing and managing climate projects.
How did you select this project?
The project was selected in close cooperation with the Government of Egypt and is one of their high priority projects.
The project will support the depollution of two main environmental hotspots identified in the Egyptian National Action Plan (NAP) developed in the framework of the Land-Based Pollution Protocol of the Barcelona Convention, i.e. Lake Maryut and El Mex Bay.
For this project, as well as all other projects receiving MeHSIP support, the selection is decided by the MeHSIP Steering Committee, which brings together key stakeholder institutions including the European Commission through ghd Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) and DG Environment, the Union for the Mediterranean and the EIB, as well as the United Nations Environmental Programme – Mediterranean Action Plan. The committee makes sure that all projects selected are in line with the regional plans as well as the EU objectives.
Do you expect to sign more projects soon?
This year the bank has approved two milestone projects in the water sector: expansion of the Fayoum wastewater collection and treatment facilities and the Kitchener Drain depollution project. We are also supporting the Government of Egypt in the preparation of the Bahr Al Baqr drain depollution project and in preparation for the project for rehabilitation of several water treatment and wastewater treatment plants.
Depending on the outcome of the Alexandria West WWTP feasibility study, we hope to get a decision on financing its extension and upgrade next year.
In addition we have a long list of interesting projects under appraisal, not only in the water sector but also in the transport, energy, environment, and SMEs development sectors.
EIB, Arab Bank join forces with €300m deal to support local private sector
Last week, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Arab Bank signed a financing agreement worth €300m to support small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and mid-cap funds in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and the West Bank.
The EIB said that the operation comes under its Economic Resilience Initiative (ERI), aimed at enhancing the prospects for more resilient and inclusive growth as well as creating sustainable employment opportunities in the region. This new credit line brings the overall EIB financing for private sector development in the EU Southern Neighbourhood region to €1.8bn over the past two years.
The financing agreement is the first from the EIB’s regional credit line for small and medium businesses in the selected countries. The EIB’s financing will be channelled by the Arab Bank at rates affordable to small and medium businesses in the region, thereby enhancing economic growth through catalysing and accelerating private investment.
The EIB – Arab Bank partnership further builds on the strengthened commitment of the EIB to support economic development and stimulate private sector-led growth and job creation in the region, in the context of the ERI.
Requested by the 28 EU member states, the ERI is part of the response by the European Union to the challenges posed by forced displacement and migration in the region, with a focus on tackling the longer-term causes of migration.
It aims to boost economic resilience, create opportunities for employment, and improve both daily living conditions and the business environment in the region by stimulating investment in the private sector and vital infrastructure in the EU Southern Neighbourhood and Western Balkan countries.