People’s Assembly committee angered by environmental violations

The chairman of the People’s Assembly Health Committee criticized on Tuesday the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs for what he calls partiality towards petroleum companies.

Hamdi el-Sayyed said during a parliamentary discussion on early day motions about natural disasters that the ministry is turning a blind eye to environmental violations in the Gulf of Suez that have resulted in the pollution of beaches and nature reserves in South Sinai.

Mostafa Fouda, undersecretary of the ministry, played down the dangers of petroleum companies. El-Sayyed labeled Fouda’s reaction as a "funny lecture," stressing that such a catastrophe cannot be met with leniency.

"We cannot simply deal with petroleum traders as masters because they bring us money," el-Sayyed  said.

Ali Atwa, an NDP parliamentarian, held one oil company directly responsible for the environmental damages that hit the nature reserve Ras Mohamed in Sinai. "The firm’s director declines to meet with MPs. In fact, having access to him now requires approval from the petroleum minister," Atwa said.

El-Sayyed also criticized directives from Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, who decreed that government authorities should not take legal actions against each other before resorting to arbitration committees.

Ihab Abul Soud, head of special operations at the environment ministry, disclosed that oil leaks are continuing in the Suez gulf due to eroding petroleum pipes. He revealed that a meeting between officials from the South Sinaigovernorate and petroleum representatives ended with a recommendation to fix the damaged pipes, the establishment of a regional environmental control center, and the creation of a fund to compensate the affected citizens.

Abdallah Ghurab, head of the General Petroleum Corporation, defended the oil companies, arguing that they are "100 percent not responsible" for the pollution. Despite that, he added, the companies work on cleaning the oil slicks as soon as they appear in the bay.

El-Sayyed asked the petroleum ministry to submit a report to his committee proving the safety of Petrobel Company oil pipes.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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