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close this bookConducting Environmental Impact Assessment in Developing Countries (United Nations University, 1999, 375 p.)
close this folder10. Case studies to illustrate environmental impact assessment studies
View the documentCase study 10.1 Tongonan Geothermal Power Plant, Leyte, Philippines
View the documentCase study 10.2 Accelerated Mahaweli Development Programme
View the documentCase study 10.3 Tin Smelter Project in Thailand
View the documentCase study 10.4 Thai National Fertilizer Corporation Project
View the documentCase study 10.5 Map Ta Phut Port Project
View the documentCase study 10.6 EIA at Work: A Hydroelectric Project in Indonesia
View the documentCase study 10.7 The Greater Cairo Wastewater Project

Case study 10.7 The Greater Cairo Wastewater Project

Mohamed Talaat Abu-Saada, Cairo Wastewater Organization, Egypt, and Stephen F. Lintner, US Agency for International Development

Note: This is an example of a case study where environmental aspects have not been costed.

The Greater Cairo Wastewater Project, undertaken jointly by the Arab Republic of Egypt and the United States, is an excellent example of how environmental assessments can be used to assist host countries and donor organizations in the evaluation of phased implementation strategies for major projects, the selection of technology, the evaluation of operation and maintenance issues, and in the identification of complementary projects to assure sustainable performance of the project. This experience can be helpful when preparing environmental assessments for other projects in developing countries.

In 1976, the Arab Republic of Egypt embarked on a massive undertaking to improve the wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal systems for the capital city of Cairo. The objectives of the project were to improve wastewater collection, conveyance, treatment, and disposal in the metropolitan region. The implementation of this undertaking has been assigned to the Cairo Wastewater Organization (CWO), while the operation of the system is the responsibility of the Cairo General Organization for Sewerage and Sanitary Drainage (CGOSD). The project involves not only extensive rehabilitation of existing facilities, relief pump stations and force mains, but new construction as well, including major wastewater treatment plants and disposal systems. Additional project activities will provide extensive support for institutional development and training programmes. In addition, the Ministry of Health will conduct water quality monitoring on a regular basis.

The city is geographically divided into two banks, East and West, by the River Nile. The East Bank, the oldest portion of the city, has an extensive wastewater system dating back to 1906. The West Bank wastewater system, which was constructed in the 1930s, is not as extensive, and as a result, the West Bank has a higher proportion of its population living in unsewered areas.

During the planning stages for the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project, consideration was given to these various structural differences and the varying needs of the areas. As a result, East Bank improvements focus on the construction of a major conveyance system, to carry existing and future wastewater to a new treatment plant at Gabel el Asfar. Construction activities for the West Bank are more extensive. They include the expansion of basic collection and conveyance facilities in the extensively unsewered areas, rehabilitation and expansion of the Zenein wastewater treatment plant, and the construction of a greatly expanded wastewater treatment plant at Abu Rawash.

The need for the project

Cairo, like many capital cities in the developing world, has been faced with the problem of supplying wastewater services to a population which is growing as the result of both rapid natural population growth and high rates of rural-urban migration. The 1985 population of the metropolitan region was estimated at approximately 8 million and is projected to reach approximately 13.6 million by the year 2000. In serving a population that is increasing at a rapid rate, the Cairo wastewater system, which was originally designed for a population of less than 1 million, had become seriously overloaded and deteriorating to a point where unsanitary conditions were developing throughout much of the city. Inadequate investment in maintenance, especially for pump stations and sewers, further reduced the efficiency of the system. In addition, many areas around Cairo have never been sewered, even though many had been supplied with piped water.

Presently, about 66 per cent of the population is served by the existing sewerage system and 34 percent reside in unsewered areas. The reliability of collection in the sewered areas is reduced due to the general overloading of the system and inadequate pumping capacity. In the unsewered areas, populations rely on a combination of public and private services for the collection of wastewater from vaults below or adjacent to houses. These devices frequently overflow or become inoperable, resulting in the large-scale flooding, ponding, and pollution of entire neighbourhoods. The high cost of commercial collection of wastewater in the predominantly lower income unsewered areas, discourages all but the most essential use of the sewage disposal pits in these areas and promotes a variety of improper disposal practices. Because of these conditions, studies have shown that the rate of illness is higher in the unsewered urban areas of Cairo than in most rural areas in Egypt.

Approximately one half of the sewage collected receives partial wastewater treatment prior to disposal. The remainder, including that collected from unsewered areas, is disposed directly into open drains originally constructed for agricultural purposes which have become an element of the urban wastewater infrastructure. These drains eventually discharge into the Nile delta resulting in local degradation of water quality. Wastewater from industry and thermal power generation is not a significant problem in Cairo due to the concentration of these facilities to the north and south of the city outside the service area of the system.

The negative impact of this situation on environmental health and water quality is recognized by the Government of Egypt, which has given top priority among infrastructure investments to the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project. The project has broad recognition of the need to make improvements in the system. This attitude has been important as there has been considerable local disruption of traffic and business during the implementation of the project.

Donor support

The Government of the United States acting through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of the United Kingdom acting through the Overseas Development Administration (ODA) have provided capital and technical support for this project, as well as private British banks. Assistance is also being provided by the Federal Republic of Germany and Japan. Local currency costs are being provided in part by the Government of Egypt. A major element of technical assistance has been supported for the design of both the rehabilitation and new construction phases of the project by a jointly financed British-American engineering consortium named AMBRIC. AMBRIC works in collaboration with a consortium of Egyptian firms.

The total project cost is expected to be more than $3 billion. Supplemental studies, including environmental assessment, tariff studies, unsewered area studies, environmental health review, etc., cost $1.5 million and were funded by USAID.

Rehabilitation phase

The existing wastewater system includes over 400 km of common sewers, 82 pneumatic ejector stations, 95 conventional pumping stations, and approximately 120 km of major collectors, in addition to five wastewater treatment plants. Due to excessive deterioration of the system, a multi-faceted rehabilitation programme was implemented between 1980 and 1986.

The work supported under the rehabilitation phase of the project consisted of major and minor repairs, structural and equipment modifications, debris and grit removal, and general cleanup of the system. Work was conducted on five major system elements: collectors and sewers, ejectors and ejector stations, pumps and pump stations, force mains, and treatment plants. This phase provided for a substantial improvement in the performance of the existing system.

The rehabilitation phase not only reduced the problems associated with the wastewater system, that is, flooding and ponding of sewerage, but it also provided a foundation for developing most of the detailed plans and construction specifications for expanding and improving the system to serve the population of Greater Cairo.

New construction phase

On the East Bank, a major conveyance system is planned which will carry wastewater from the existing sewer collection system to a major tunnel pumping station at America, which will have installed a centrifugal pump. From America, a new 15 km culvert conveyance system will transport wastewater northward to two plants, a new locally designed treatment plant at Shoubra el Kheima and a major new activated sludge treatment plant at Gabal el Asfar. The Gabal el Asfar wastewater treatment plant will be a non-nitrifying activated sludge plant with thickening and drying facilities.

Construction activities on the West Bank have been designed to improve and expand the wastewater system and to assure its proper management. To meet these design criteria, construction will include deep collectors to allow the elimination of 12 existing pumping stations, steep gradients to assure an adequate scouring velocity where incursion of sand is a problem, and simple archimedean screw-type pumps for major pump stations. With regard to the expandability of the system, primary collectors will have the capacity not only for current volume, but for extension of services to present unsewered areas and to adjacent developing areas.

Besides providing sewerage services to unsewered areas, additional activities focus on construction of a new treatment plant at Abu Rawash. The plant is a non-nitrifying activated sludge design and is expected to treat flows reaching 400,000 m3 per day. The design minimizes both energy cost and maintenance. Based on the examination of the system, the Zenein plant was the only treatment plant considered suitable for retention in the system. The plant will undergo extensive modifications during this phase, which will result in an operational capacity of 300,000 m3 per day.

Operational assistance and training

In order to assure the reliable performance of the Cairo wastewater system, the Government of Egypt and USAID have started implementation of a series of institutional development and training programmes in operation and maintenance. The programme has focused on the development of improved institutional capabilities in administration, planning, and financial management. Extensive support has been provided for the "training of trainers'' in a wide variety of professional, administrative, and technical skill areas. Special attention has been given to critical problems such as the management of grit accumulations in the sewers, sewer cleaning, pump station operation, and wastewater treatment plant operations.

The West Bank environment assessment

USAID is required by United States law (22 CFR 216 "USAID Environmental Procedures'') to prepare environmental assessments for all projects which are anticipated to have a potentially significant impact on the environment. All major water and wastewater projects are specifically required under this legislation to have an environmental assessment prepared to ensure that they are planned, designed, and implemented in an environmentally sound manner. The Arab Republic of Egypt, although not specifically requiring the preparation of environmental assessments, requires that proposed projects be reviewed for compliance with a variety of laws and regulations concerning the environment.

Under USAID regulations, an environmental assessment is defined as a detailed study of the reasonably foreseeable significant effects, both beneficial and adverse, of a proposed action on the environment. The objective of an environmental assessment is to identify potential environmental consequences of a proposed project to ensure that the responsible decision makers in both the host country and USAID make an environmentally informed decision when reviewing and approving a proposed project and implementation plan. Included in the assessment is a detailed evaluation of alternatives to the proposed project and the identification of mitigation actions which might be adopted to eliminate or reduce unavoidable negative environmental impacts.

It should be understood that under the USAID approach, environmental assessments do not recommend a specific course of action, nor do they determine whether a project should or should not be undertaken. These decisions are reserved for resolution by USAID and host government personnel during the process of project design, review, approval, and implementation. This is important, as it makes the assessment a "dynamic'' tool to ensure environmental soundness, rather than a "completed'' document prepared to assure compliance with a regulatory requirement. The value of an environmental assessment in the USAID system is that it provides information concerning key environmental issues, an analysis of alternatives and reviews potential mitigation actions. This information is then evaluated with other detailed analyses relating to engineering, economics, management, training, and financing to provide an effective and environmentally sound project design and implementation plan.

An agreement was reached early in the design of the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project that the Government of the United States would provide assistance for capital construction on the West Bank of the Nile and the Government of the United Kingdom would provide assistance for capital construction on the East Bank of the Nile. Initially, it was anticipated that the AMBRIC model used for design of the system could be extended to joint USAID-ODA preparation of a detailed environmental assessment. However, for a number of reasons this did not prove possible and USAID proceeded to fund the preparation of a detailed environmental assessment for the proposed West Bank construction programme.

Preparation of the environmental assessment

CWO and USAID recognized the need for the preparation of a detailed environmental assessment from the earliest stages of project development. An element of the initial design studies prepared by the AMBRIC Consortium included a preliminary environmental review of the project. The Washington-based Environmental Coordinator of the Bureau for Asia and Near East of AID made preliminary site visits to the project area and held discussions with representatives of CWO during April 1979 to review the proposed new construction programme on both the East and West Banks of the Nile. The scope of work for the environmental assessment was prepared by the environmental coordinator with the assistance of CWO during visits to Egypt during November 1980 and March 1981. The environmental coordinator returned to Egypt to supervise the initial phases of field data collection with representatives of the consulting firm retained to prepare the assessment and in October 1981 to participate in the CWO sponsored "scoping session''. The planning visits to Egypt allowed for the advance collection of a variety of data and for coordination with the AMBRIC and Egyptian consortiums.

The environmental assessment was prepared for the General Organization for Sewerage and Sanitary Drainage and the Organization for Execution of the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project CWO by American and Egyptian consultants. The total cost for preparation of the assessment was approximately $270,000, which was grant-financed by USAID. It was prepared over a 12-month period which included significant periods for the review of draft versions of the document.

The study was prepared by a 12-person interdisciplinary team of experts from the United States and Egypt which included specialists in agricultural engineering, agronomy, economic analysis of capital projects, economic analysis of natural resources issues, environmental engineering, Egyptian law, industrial pollution control, public health, soil science, social science, and wastewater systems operations and maintenance. The assessment was prepared in two volumes: an executive summary (in Arabic and English) and a main report (in English with an Arabic summary and table of contents).

Preparation of the environmental assessment for the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project included the conduct of the first environmental "scoping session'' held in Egypt. A requirement under USAID environmental regulations, a "scoping session'' is a meeting of knowledgeable and potentially affected parties to review the proposed scope of work of the environmental assessment and to provide advice concerning the preparation of the study.

The session for the project was hosted and chaired by CWO and had 31 participants. These included representatives of Ain Shams University, AMBRIC, Ministry of Agriculture, CWO, General Organization for Physical Planning, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Irrigation, National Committee on Environment, University of Alexandria, and USAID. The preparation of the assessments benefited significantly from this session which allowed for the improved targeting of field efforts, identification of key sources of data, and the establishment of high level contacts with senior representatives of major governmental and technical organizations.

Major issues reviewed in the environmental assessment

The environmental assessment focused on the review of the current environmental conditions in the greater project area, an analysis of the causes of these problems, an analysis of alternative wastewater management plans, a review of wastewater collection and conveyance alternatives and their environmental impacts, and a review of wastewater treatment and disposal alternatives and the environmental aspects of the following issues: alternatives for the sequence of facilities construction; alternatives for wastewater treatment; and alternatives for effluent disposal.

Each of the alternatives was reviewed with regard to its cost, its reliability under local conditions, the associated environmental health benefits, and its institutional requirements, and social acceptability in the Egyptian context. The assessment emphasized the evaluation of alternatives with regard to both the impact of new facilities as elements of a well conceived and well run system, but also those impacts which could result if portions of the system do not function as intended. It also analysed constraints to efficient operations such as inadequate tariffs, non-enforcement of sewer use ordinances, and inadequate resources for spare parts.

The project design of the Government of Egypt and USAID made extensive use of the environmental assessment in the development of a strategy for phased investment. Based on the assessment, first priority was given to collection and conveyance investments, with second priority given to treatment disposal investments. The environmental assessment was also used to justify the need to identify and obligate significant additional funding by both governments to assure successful implementation of the complete project.

It was recognized that the emphasis on collection and conveyance would provide for rapid and significant improvements in environmental health for large numbers of residents in areas which were either unsewered or subject to routine flooding due to inadequate conveyance. However, it was understood that this decision would continue on an interim basis, the long standing practice of discharging untreated wastewater to agricultural drains.

It should be noted that the analysis included in the environmental assessment showed that while this would temporarily result in a minor negative incremental impact to water quality, the benefits obtained from construction of permanent facilities for the removal of untreated wastewater from densely populated areas justified this decision. In addition, the risk associated with this investment strategy was limited due to the small amounts and restricted range of industrial pollutants discharged into the West Bank collection system.

Lessons learned about environmental assessments

Timing is all important

The experience of the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project demonstrates that environmental assessments for major capital development projects can be prepared in a cost-effective and timely manner when they are prepared at an appropriate point in the course of project development. CWO and USAID believe that the funds spent to prepare the environmental assessment represent an effective expenditure of $270,000 to support the approximately $1.4 billion of new construction for the West Bank section of the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project.

USAID experience is that environmental assessments of major capital projects are best done following the preparation of the preliminary feasibility study, which allows for a clear identification of the proposed project and alternatives. The environmental assessment, to be an effective tool in decision making, should be available for concurrent review with the feasibility study. USAID does not recommend that any project be authorized to go to final engineering design and/or construction prior to the preparation, review, and clearance of a detailed environmental assessment.

The costs of environmental assessments can be minimized if selected data collection needs are identified early and are included in the basic data collection programme for the engineering feasibility study. Savings can also be achieved by requiring the engineering consultant to allow the environmental assessment team to use base maps, system plans, technical data, and cartographic drafting bases.

EIA should be an on-going review process

The experience of the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project illustrates that the initial environmental assessment is only one element of a continuous environmental review process which should be used by host countries and donors in the planning, design, implementation, and operation of a major capital development project.

It should be noted that the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project was actually subject to a series of field-based environmental reviews by USAID environmental personnel: (a) prior to the preparation of the detailed environmental assessment, (b) during the technical review of final engineering designs for selected elements of the project, and (c) through periodic field reviews.

Most important in assuring sound project implementation are the annual reviews of the water and wastewater sector which are held by the Governments of Egypt and the United States. These sessions allow for the routine assessment of progress, the timely identification of problems, and the joint resolution of issues. This continuous process is critical to assure that a project is planned, designed, and implemented in an environmentally sound fashion as opposed to only being subject to the preparation of a detailed environmental assessment as a legal or policy requirement.

EIA can help establish phased investment strategies and technology selection

The experience of the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project demonstrates that environmental assessments can be designed to provide insight into complex project design decisions such as the selection of phased investment priorities and technology selection in a large-scale project. The environmental assessment was an important tool for the CWO and USAID in making the difficult decisions on the sequence of construction elements, in order to optimize environmental health benefits in a project with an implementation period of over a decade. The environmental assessment assisted in the selection of technology for wastewater collection, treatment, conveyance, temporary disposal, and permanent disposal.

The usefulness of the environmental assessment in the project design and implementation process was enhanced by the fact that the analysis of all technical alternatives and mitigations proposed in the environmental assessment included an evaluation of their capital cost (foreign and local currency), recurrent cost (foreign and local currency), institutional development and training requirements, and the identification of the responsible implementing organization. This information proved critical to decision-making as it provided information on the cost and managerial implications of various options.

EIA should provide an integrated analysis for programme planning

The experience of the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project demonstrates that an environmental assessment can influence the decisions of host country and donor officials identifying major problems requiring resolution, providing a basis for policy, review, and serving as advocacy documents to obtain support for project funding. The environmental assessment identified a series of issues which represented generic problems in the management of wastewater in Egypt. It reviewed the problems of institutional development, operation and maintenance, system reliability, and the financing of recurrent costs. By providing an integrated and objective analysis of the current status of wastewater services on the West Bank of Cairo and an assessment of the potential human health impacts of this situation, the assessment served as an advocacy document for justifying the provision of support for complementary project activities in institutional development, operation and maintenance, and training.

A major outgrowth of the assessment is the Water and Wastewater Institutional Development Project approved in 1985 with joint Government of Egypt and USAID funding of $420 million. The assesment brought to the attention of the host government and donor organizations the serious negative environmental impacts which can occur when systems fail to operate as planned due to inadequate design, poor construction, or improper operation. It stressed the critical role played by properly prepared institutions and trained personnel in assuring that the environmental objectives of the project are achieved on a sustainable basis.

The importance of "scoping sessions''

The experience of the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project demonstrates the utility of conducting "scoping sessions'' as part of the process for the preparation of environmental assessments. The USAID environmental procedures require that "scoping sessions'' be conducted as an element of the environmental assessment preparation process. However, the experience in the Cairo study, and other studies, indicates that the sessions provide an important mechanism to assure widespread knowledge of the proposed project, the potential environmental impacts, alternatives, and possible mitigation activities.

Scoping sessions provide a forum for the participants, the project sponsor, and the assessment team to interact to obtain a consensus on such things as the critical environmental issues which should be reviewed, the critical organizations and individuals to be contacted, and location of the important sources of data. It also provides a means for establishing contacts to ensure that senior level personnel instruct their staffs to provide assistance to the team and logistical support for field visits. CWO and USAID attribute much of the $78,000 in savings which was realized by the consultant in the preparation of the assessment as attributable to the contacts made at the scooping session.

The advantages of a "joint team'' approach

The experience of the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project demonstrates that the use of joint teams comprised of personnel from the host country and international consulting organizations is a technically sound and cost-effective practice. The preparation of the environmental assessment benefited from the use of an Egyptian private sector consulting organization as a subcontractor which provided both professional personnel, support personnel, and logistical assistance. This association increased the efficiency of the personnel provided by the international consultant and provided direct access into the well developed Egyptian consulting community. It also reduced the time required by CWO and USAID to support the field operations of the international consultant.

The "joint team'' approach provided the Egyptian subcontractor with an opportunity to expand their area of expertise and to develop a potentially long-term relationship with a firm from the United States. USAID has continued to use this approach for the preparation of environmental assessments throughout the Asia and Near East Region. For example, a major Pakistan-USAID environmental assessment was prepared recently by a joint team which included five experts from an American consulting firm and five experts from an associated Pakistani firm.

Host governments and donors should recognize, however, that the use of joint teams requires the adoption of a policy which promotes collaborative preparation of consultant studies. USAID believes that the joint preparation of environmental assessments is an effective technique for the transfer of this methodology when this is a planned objective of technical assistance and provisions are made in the consultant contract to assure this will occur. It is recommended that when joint teams are proposed to prepare environmental assessments the scope of work should include a provision for the international firm to review the objectives and methodology of the environmental assessment with the local firm. The scope of work for the local firm should include provision for review of local customs, laws, regulations, and institutions with the international firm.

The need for a flexible review and comment process

The experience of the Cairo Wastewater Project demonstrated the need to adopt a flexible approach to the review and comment process for environmental assessments. In most countries, developed and developing alike, personnel in governmental and non-governmental organizations are limited in their ability to review and comment on the large amounts of material which are routinely submitted to their offices. The traditional system used in the United States of soliciting formal written comments in response to a draft assessment is not an efficient way to obtain comments in the Near Eastern context. For a number of reasons, it is difficult for many organizations to provide written comments in a timely fashion (60 to 90 day review and comment period). After a major extension of the review period, CWO and USAID conducted visits to a number of key individuals to obtain their comments. This proved to be a satisfactory although informal means of obtaining responses to the draft and final assessment.

As the result of this type of experience in Egypt and other countries in the Asia and Near East Region, USAID has adopted a mixed approach to review and comment on assessments which includes formal written comments, small group meetings to review draft documents, and consultations with key individuals. USAID has found that the preparation and distribution of independently bound executive summaries greatly assists in providing senior level personnel, who do not have the time to review the complete assessment, with an opportunity to review the major findings and recommendations of the study.

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United Nations
University Press
53-70, Jingumae 5-chome
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-8925, Japan
Tel: +81-3-3499-2811 Fax: +81-3-3406-7345

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a policy and management tool for planning and decision-making. Conceived in the 1970s after the United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm, EIA assists policy makers and the general public in identifying, predicting, and evaluating the environmental impact and consequences of proposed development projects, plans and policies. The outcome of an EIA study helps to decide whether a given project should be implemented and what form it should take.

This volume includes an introduction to EIA, and explains its process, methods, and tools. It discusses the implementation of specific environmental management measures and the need for their constant monitoring. The authors also explore the writing and reviewing of an EIA report and the process of translating and communicating the findings of an EIA study to decision makers and the public. The book also examines emerging trends in EIA and concludes with a number of illustrative case studies.

is with the Environmental Management
Centre, Bombay.

is President of the Third World Centre for
Water Management, Mexico City.

United Nations
University Press

ISBN 92-808-0965-2