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Improving Air Quality and Health for Millions of Egyptians

The Cairo Air Improvement Project tackled Cairo’s air quality problems by implementing cleaner technologies in transportation and industry, coupled with an innovative emissions testing program.

​With a city of 16 million inhabitants facing serious health threats from lead and other particulate matter, the Government of Egypt recognized an urgent and critical need to clean up Cairo’s air.  In partnership with USAID and Chemonics, Egyptian officials embarked upon one of the largest air pollution control activities funded by a donor agency. 

Operations at the new Awadallah smelter reduce air emissions by 99 percent.
The project addressed the main sources of pollution—vehicles, industry, and open burning of wastes.  Initially, the Cairo Air Improvement Project targeted the capital’s 1.5 million vehicles.  Chemonics led this effort by helping to draft new vehicle emission standards, designing a vehicle testing network, and opening the first vehicle emissions testing station on the African continent.  The team designed and procured a fleet of chassis for buses that run on compressed natural gas, a clean-burning fuel that reduces harmful emissions by up to 85 percent.  Cairo’s pilot fleet of 50 compressed natural gas buses provided by the project continues to expand.

The project also aimed to reduce industrial sources of lead, such as factories smelting lead scrap.  It successfully relocated Egypt’s largest lead smelting company from a densely populated residential neighborhood to an industrial site outside of Cairo.  The team designed a state-of-the-art facility to monitor emissions. 

Additionally, the project launched the first reliable ambient air quality monitoring program in Cairo, drawing on data from a network of 36 monitoring stations. Finally, the program has helped Egyptian authorities implement successful public information campaigns for unleaded gas and vehicle tune-ups.  Residents of Cairo can indeed breathe easier thanks to the Cairo Air Improvement Project.  

Project Results

  • 75 percent decline in lead level in the air
  • 99 percent decline in fall season air pollution episodes
  • 99 percent reduction in air emissions by Egypt’s largest lead smelter
  • 65 percent reduction in lead emitted by all sources in Greater Cairo
  • 91 percent fewer particulates released by natural busepared to diesel buses  

Final Report

 Project Duration: 1999 - 2004


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