Throughout the historic area of Saqqara in Giza, healthy young eucalyptus trees are being cut down and trucked away to various rural areas to sell for charcoal production. This tree cutting is the result of careless contracts issued by the Ministry of Irrigation. The contracts are written in the name of pruning, cutting back and removing dead and diseased wood. But the reality is that due to negligence healthy young trees are also being taken down.
“These guys are kanaqin (charcoal) producers who request an arbitrary contract from the ministry to cut down dead trees,” said Mourad El Essawi, a prominent farmer in Saqqara. “In the contract it says only to cut down trees that are dry. But of course they abuse this because they have the paperwork, and they just go and cut whichever ones they like.”
Despite the claims of the cutters themselves that they are following Ministry of Irrigation orders, Essam Khalifa, media advisor for the ministry, claims that these are actually the orders of the Ministry of Agriculture. But the Ministry of Agriculture insists that the contracts are most certainly with the Ministry of Irrigation since pruning is their responsibility.
By failing to specify area, tree type or status, the contracts enable wood dealers and kanaqin producers to move from area to area cutting down two trees at a time, knowing that they have the paperwork to justify it.
“Last week they were cutting down trees like there was no tomorrow,” said Abdel Nabi Osman, manager of the Egyptian Endurance Riders Association (EERA), who filed all the official complaints. “They’re not just producing kanaqin, they are wood traders and they’re selling the trees, and it's highly illegal. Regardless, someone needs to be held accountable – these trees are beautiful, old landmarks of the Saqqara area, and the irresponsibility of the ministries and their porous contracts must be revealed.”