With the help of close supporters, visitors to the area and some authorities, Sherif initiated a recycling project that would be responsible for cleaning up and protecting the area between Taba and Nuweiba. “I experienced first hand the pollution, garbage and cultural decay of Cairo and parts of the Sinai, it took more than two years to register Hemaya as an NGO, but it was worth it.”
To keep the area clean, Sherif wanted three things to happen. First, the practice of throwing rubbish into the streets had to stop. Second, the old garbage pits where, for years, local garbage had been piled to rot had to be cleaned out and finally, Hemaya would take part in planting trees and generally beautifying the area. Since its establishment, Hemaya has implemented these three founding projects as well as greatly expanded its efforts.
The Nuweiba Solid Waste Transfer Station – the first of its kind in South Sinai – was inaugurated on November 2, 1998. “About eight tons of garbage are being produced every day during peak seasons in the Nuweiba area alone. People needed to learn how to collect this waste with minimal environmental impact. We utilized the Zabaleen, Cairo’s mostly Coptic recycling community, as an example and built a little recycling station where we separate and prepare the garbage. To accomplish this, we required both money and experience,” recalls Sherif. He found the support he needed with the Association for the Preservation of the Environment (APE), which was the Zabaleen’s own NGO.
“We went to the hotels and cafes to create contracts with them for garbage collection. Months before this, we began a campaign to inform people to separate their garbage into organic and non-organic wastes. Currently approximately 30 hotels and cafes have signed garbage collection contracts with us. We are also collecting from more than 660 private flats in Nuweiba. We don’t have much money, but we keep trying. The local government has given us nothing, not even for collecting from the private city flats. We are not in this to make a profit. What we want is for this area to be clean and protected.”
Hemaya employs a system of recycling whereby the organic and non-organic waste is separated at the source (i.e., the hotel or restaurant). It is then collected and brought to the recycling station, which consists of a conveyor belt, paper press, metal press and a plastic crusher. The non-organic waste is processed accordingly, separated into twelve different grades of plastics, two grades of glass, two grades of metal, aluminum and paper. Each is processed and prepared differently and then sold or directed for further trade. The remaining non-recyclable components are disposed of in a sanitary landfill while the organic waste is carried to suitable sites for the Bedouin’s livestock to feed on. A future project is the inclusion of a fertilizer plant for all organic waste.
Following the inauguration of the Solid Waste Separation Station in Nuweiba a three-day workshop on solid waste management, together with a clean-up campaign, was held, December 11-13, 1998. The event was organized with the cooperation of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, CID (Community and Institutional Development) and the Ministry of Social Affairs’, El-Tor office. Participants included young people and students from other NGOs and Sinai municipalities as well as Mr. Fawzi Abdel Sadek, the Deputy Chairman of the Nuweiba City Council, who expressed his commitment to the station and his willingness to help initiate and support similar stations in other South Sinai cities.
In addition to the recycling center, Hemaya has endeavored to educate the local community and visitors to the area about the importance of conservation by conducting tours of the station for foreigners and Egyptians and organizing work-shops and clean-up projects for both local and Cairo youth. Hemaya continues to monitor and clean-up the area, having collected 1,500 tons of solid waste from the city of Nuweiba between January 1, 2000 and June 1, 2000. Hemaya has also lent its services to the effort of beautifying the area and has planted twenty palm trees at the entrance to the city of Taba, seventy-one palm trees at the port of Nuweiba in collaboration with the Egyptian American Bank, and greatly restored and improved the Taba checkpoint also in collaboration with the Egyptian American Bank. As Sherif says, “I go through this because I want to help the Sinai … for the environment. We will die in 20-30 years but the environment is there forever. It should be there for the next generation.”
Thankfully, because of Hemaya’s startling success, the Ministry for the Environment has urged all hotels to follow suit and sign up with Hemaya or a similar garbage collection and recycling team. Further, the Tourist and Development Authority and the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency is now working with about one hundred local tourism operators to conserve the environment. They have formed the Tourism Investors Association (TIA) and claim to marry ethics and investment. Their motto is “Our environment is our investment.” We hope that this campaign for environmental awareness continues.
Below are the goals of Hemaya:
1. Protect the Sinai environment from pollution.
2. Preserve the area’s natural resources and conserve their usage.
3. Protect the Red Sea marine life and Sinai wildlife and prohibit hunting.
4. Enhance awareness of the region’s cultural, social, economic, and health issues.
5. Educate the local community and visitors to the area about the importance of environmental conservation.
6. Seek solutions for the damage to the environment specific to the area by conducting studies and engaging in research.
7. Provide information necessary for combating environmental pollution.
8. Advise local companies and residents concerning the protection and preservation of the environment, producing newsletters and fliers to increase awareness.
9. Organize projects designed to support the local Bedouin community and sustain their traditional arts and crafts.
10. Organize volunteer groups for frequent Clean-Up projects of the Red Sea and coastal villages.
11. Organize workshops, lectures, seminars, and conferences at the local level.
12. Communicate and cooperate with other environmentally – oriented national and international NGOs.
13. Participate in national and international conferences concerning the protection of the environment.
14. Monitor the adherence (by locals, tourists, and corporations) to environmental protection programs and laws.
15. Assist governmental authorities with the application and enforcement of environmental laws in the Sinai.