Going Green

Kharga: First Egyptian Green Environmentally-friendly City

Temple of Hibis. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Temple of Hibis. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Going Green

Egypt has recently announced Kharga as the first ever green environmentally-friendly city. Kharga is the capital of New Valley governorate in the southern part of Egypt. 

Egypt’s Minister of Environment Yasmin Fouad said the city of Kharga is a success story that will be presented during the upcoming COP27 climate conference, which will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh this November, hoping to repeat this experience in other cities and governorates.

During a June 5 celebration organized by the New Valley Governorate to declare Kharga the first environmentally friendly city, the minister added that the New Valley enjoys great natural beauty that can be invested as an ecotourism different from the tourism of the seas and coral reefs. 

She added the private sector can invest there by establishing hotels using natural materials from the place and there will be a different type of tourism that depends on sand dunes and enjoying calm and relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of cities and technological “props” such as mobile and television.

The city was selected due to a number of factors and advantages. A ministry committee was dispatched to examine the environmental situation of the city and study the elements of its declaration.

The data prepared by the governorate was studied and field visits were carried out to various sites to ensure that there were no sources of pollution or wrong practices that had an impact on the environment.

Ebtisam Abu Rehab, member of the energy and environment committee in the Egyptian House of Deputies, told Majalla that the evaluation process that was carried out to declare the city of Kharga as a green city, took into account the basic needs of humans from the use of drinking water, sanitation, energy and rationalization of the use of natural resources.

“It is a pollution-free city from our grandparents’ time, not just now.  There is an absence of any sources of industrial pollution, as there are no factories other than canning dates,” Abu Rehab, who is from New Valley governorate, added.

“It is an important factor in selecting the city. The millions of palm trees that are cultivated from the past and even in modern times help filter the air,” she added.

“We use nature-made materials in our life. For example, we use wood from palm trees in making ceilings of the houses. So there is no need to erect air conditions.”

Abu Rehab added that the city relies on new and renewable energy sources (solar energy - natural gas) and energy-saving in government agencies, street lighting, places of worship, and water extraction from irrigation wells and homes.

She pointed out that Kharga city contains all sewage and treatment services. There is also an encouragement for sustainable agricultural activities and focus on ecological products such as mushrooms and silk. There is also a trend to get rid of the use of single-use plastic bags.

During the celebration, the Environment Minister laid the foundation stone for the solar power plant to serve the mechanized government departments' complex north of Kharga with a capacity of 1.5 megawatts. 

The minister inspected the Natural Silk Oasis project north of Kharga city, which is located on an area of 180 acres and includes agricultural greenhouses for vegetables and fruits, a nursery for planting mulberry trees, and a palm tree farm that includes 7000 seedlings. In addition to a factory for sericulture and silk production, there is also a fish farming project spread over an area of 1.5 acres, producing 50 tons of tilapia and mullet.

In addition, Kharga city is characterized by its many tourist and archaeological attractions from different eras. It is the location for the Temple of Hibis, the largest and well-preserved temple in Kharga, made of sandstone. The temple, the only structure in Egypt dating to the Saite-Persian period (664–404 BC), was dedicated to the worship of the Theban triad “Amon, Mut and Khonsu”. It consists of an anchorage, a Roman gate, the Avenue of the Rams, a Ptolemaic gate, a Persian gate, a pillared hall, the transverse hall and the Hall of the Holy of Holies.

Another Temple called Nadura is located 3 kilometres north of Kharga, on a high hill that rises about 75 m above the surface of the land. It was used as a control point for passing caravans in ancient times.

The temple was dedicated to the worship of the god Khonsu, and was built during the reign of Emperors Hadrian and Antoninus Pius of the Roman era, and it consists of a sandstone building surrounded by brick walls.

Al Bajwat Cemetery was the main cemetery in Kharga during ancient Egyptian times and continued until the Coptic period. It dates back to between the 2nd and 7th centuries AD, and is located 6 kilometres north of the city of Kharga.

The cemetery consists of 263 shrines of different and distinctive architectural styles, showing the skill of the Egyptian artist in depicting a group of subjects from the Bible on its ceilings in a fresco method.

Kharga also includes the New Valley Museum which was built on an area of 3150 square meters, and consists of a three-storey building. On display are 4,087 artifacts dating from the beginning of the prehistoric era until the era of the Mohamed Ali family. Among the most important of these artifacts are those that date back to prehistoric times, and a rare group of statues and funerary paintings belonging to the rulers of the Kharga oases, and another group of statues of deities, writing tools, ornaments, amulets and wall paintings.

Ahead of COP27, the Environment Minister and Governor of South Sinai, Khaled Fouda witnessed the signing of the document of the Sharm El-Sheikh Green City project funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by the Environmental Affairs Agency in cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Development Program.

“The project aims to transform Sharm El-Sheikh into an environmentally sustainable and integrated tourist city, at a cost of about $7 million, to be of national and international importance, by adopting more low-carbon technologies and good waste management practices,” the Minister of Environment Fouad, told local media.

She added that this will be achieved by developing an integrated strategy for the sustainable development of Sharm El-Sheikh, as well as developing an action plan, focusing on technical assistance, capacity building and demonstrating good practices to mitigate the effects of climate change, and to prevent and manage chemicals and waste.

“Many measures have been implemented, including converting transportation to work with electricity, declaring a group of green and sustainable hotels, as well as switching to the use of renewable energy,” the minister said.

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