An unprecedented report details the potential environmental and socio-economic impact of Phase 1 construction of Metro Line 4 and proposes measures to mitigate negative effects, making the overall impact on the community a positive one.
Phase 1 of Metro Line 4 will cover 15km, from el-Malek el-Saleh to the borders of 6th of October, and will carry an average of two million passengers daily.
Responsibility for carrying out the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study was given to Egyptian environmental consultancy firm Environics by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), itself designated by the Egyptian National Authority for Tunnels to commission a feasibility study for the project. Environics presented its results at a public meeting on 28 December.
"Never before has an EIA study been conducted in Egypt for a metro line," says Mohammed Fangary, an urban planner at Environics. "The Metro Line 4 Phase 1 project is preceded by an ecological assessment study as this is mandatory according to JICA’s standards and regulations." He adds that even though since 1994 there has been an Egyptian law in place stipulating the carrying out of EIA surveys, "it has been widely ignored until now."
According to Ahmed Dorghamy, an environment management consultant for the JICA study team, "The tide is changing in Egypt since the amendment in 2009 of the 1994 environmental law. From now on ecological impact assessments will have to be conducted ahead of any project, be it a grocery store, a restaurant or a metro line." Such a study may range from a few pages to a full survey, depending on the size of the project.
Construction work on Metro 4 Phase 1 is expected to start in late 2011. Its overall cost has not yet been disclosed because the JICA feasibility study will not be completed for another few months, according to Fangary.
Phase 1 will cover el-Malek el-Saleh station in Old Cairo, el-Roda Island, the whole of el-Haram street, el-Remaya Square, and the future Grand Egyptian Museum, before reaching its final destination: the depot station at the very beginning of 6th of October Governorate. All of the 15 metro stations will be situated underground.
A total of 240 neighboring households at different sites of the future metro line were interviewed for the study, and according to the opinion of 43 percent of the sample, the metro is perceived as “the most convenient means of transportation,” the study found.
While 67 percent of the nearby residents did not know about the new Greater Cairo metro line, 85 percent of respondents anticipate substantial benefits such as economic growth, improvement in their quality of life and easier access to employment. They also stressed the benefits of a safer means of transportation and minimized traveling time.
The study says that the new metro line is expected to have a positive environmental and socio-economic impact through significantly reducing traffic congestion.
A mere nine percent of those interviewed showed reservations, fearing potential deterioration of the physical environment and traffic in their area, a loss or disturbance of habitat in the case of relocation, and a disruption of regional economic activities.
“In general, the negative impacts created by the construction of this metro line will be moderate,” says Fangary.
During the pre-construction and construction phases, an increase in air and noise pollution is expected due to soil excavation, the operation of machinery, and the movement of vehicles. The study recommends the purchase of equipment and machinery in good-working condition, regular inspection of machinery, and the use of sound mufflers to reduce noise.
The potential disruption created by land occupation, air and noise emissions, local traffic congestion and physical barriers erected during the construction phase can be lessened, according to the EIA report, by coordinating with governorate and other relevant authorities to provide sufficient pedestrian crossing points, ensure timely management of activities and the scrupulous following of traffic diversion plans, and inform residents about the various stages of construction.
Measures are also proposed for the operation and maintenance phase, to mitigate air and noise pollution created by vehicles traveling to the new stations, such as the construction of parking areas for buses and cars in the vicinity of the stations, as well as the erection of noise barriers.
Dorghamy however warns that “a reduction in air pollution and decongestion of traffic will only happen if more private car-owners take the decision to use the metro. Otherwise these positive impacts will not be felt, in spite of the huge scale of this transportation project.”