Toxic dust clouds make life ‘hell’ for villagers

Life has become almost unbearable for residents of the village of Abu Ahmed in the Nile Delta governorate of Kafr el-Sheikh, whose homes are perpetually engulfed by clouds of foul-smelling black dust produced by a nearby asphalt plant.

It’s not just the stench, though, that bothers the residents. They have been told that pollution places them at risk of many types of respiratory disease.

Some of the residents, desperate to extract themselves from the hell they say their lives have become, have resorted to selling their houses for a fraction of their former prices.

“The cloud of black dust pursues us from morning to evening,” said Abd el-Aziz, a local resident.

“It has forced some of us to abandon our homes from fear of disease,” he added. “Sometimes, we close our doors and windows and remain inside as if we are under siege. Ever since my children were almost suffocated, we don’t leave the house unless we absolutely have to.”

The toxic dust discharged by the plant is a direct by-product of the asphalt manufacturing process, generated when various minerals are crushed and mixed together.

Residents of the village, which lies on the Nile and is part of the Hamoul municipality, said that even though the pollution has already made many of them ill, they are afraid to file an official complaint due to rumors that the owner of the plant has close connections to the government.

Pollution from the plant affects a much wider area than the single acre it stands on. Residents explained that the dust cloud often drifts over a nearby water treatment plant inaugurated by President Mubarak, as well as the workers headquarters of Hamul’s Agricultural Drainage Department.

Whenever the cloud appears, workers flee, said the residents.
According to Mahmoud Matawaa, the mayor of Hamoul, the plant was established more than 30 years ago when the village was much smaller. Over time, as the population has grown people have settled in areas nearer the plant.

The mayor stated that he was currently examining the legalities of the matter in preparation for filing a case against the operators of the plant.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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