Egyptian communities concerned about a proposed BP gas plant on the Mediterranean coast have organised protests, including a sit-in on the site, road blockades and a raid on BP’s local office, as reported by Egyptian paper Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The residents of Idku, east of Alexandria, are opposing plans to pump gas ashore from BP’s offshore drill rigs before processing it for onwards shipment. The military has already approved the project, but local campaigners are demanding that the Egyptian Environmental Agency. A 2002 report by the Agency concluded that such a project would be too damaging to the local fish, coral reefs, agricultural land and ecologically-rich area.
That the military is supporting BP’s plans is unsurprising. The company is the largest foreign investor in Egypt and boasted of its “strong relationships” with Mubarak’s regime over the last decades. These relationships with the military behind the throne continue, despite Mubarak himself ahving been discarded.
Idku is one of many sites of contention for the growing Egyptian environmental justice movement, that includes both affected workers and local communities. Mostafa Darwish Koz, the head of Idku’s union for petroleum workers, is part of the anti-BP campaign that hs met with the regional governor, and submitted legal complaints to the military council and Egyptian navy.
According to Al-Masry Al-Youm,
Local fears are heightened because of the town’s negative history with petroleum company operations. According to documents obtained by Al-Masry Al-Youm, studies conducted in 2006 by the EEAA found that industrial waste dumping in the Mediterranean Sea by Rashpetco and Burullus Gas Company was illegal.
Water samples taken from Rasheptco’s industrial waste show that the level of certain chemicals, including nitrogen and chemical oxygen demand, was above Egypt’s permitted levels. Residents say this caused the loss of sea life and killed agricultural lands, which consequently also had an impact on fishermen and farmers’ loss of trade.
Indeed, there is a sense among many, but not all, of Idku’s residents that the gas companies are there to steal Egypt’s resources for the benefit of the West. The town does not have a sense of having benefited from these investments..
While BP wasn’t involved in these specific cases of pollution, British company BG was – as a participant in both Rashpetco and Burullus.
But there is recognition of the specific risks that BP brings – especially given that much of its drilling offshore Egypt is in deep waters:
Numerous references are made in the videos on Facebook to BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, and the fear of something similar happening in Idku.