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Egypt rues hasty H1N1 steps as waste piles up.

Byline: Ramadan Al Sherbini, Correspondent

Cairo: Since the Egyptian government decided to cull the country's estimated 35,000 pigs in April as part of preventive measures against swine flu, Michael Yousuf, a garbage collector, has been virtually out of business.

"We depended on pigs in disposing of much of the organic waste, which we used to collect from the streets of Cairo in return for very little money. Now that these pigs have been killed, my trade has suffered terribly as there is no reason to take the trouble," Yousuf, a Christian Egyptian, told Gulf News.

"This situation has resulted in... mounds of garbage on Cairo's street corners."

Most pig breeders in Egypt are Christians, as Muslims deem pigs unclean.

Yousuf is one of 50,000 traditional garbage collectors locally known as zabaleen and who live in Manshieet Nasser, one of Egypt's slum areas.

Being residents of a decades-old zabaleen community on the outskirts of Cairo, they own some 1,750 donkey-drawn wooden carts, used to carry garbage from different districts to be sorted out there.

Cairo, a city of 16 million people, produces an estimated 13,000 tonnes of waste daily.

In recent months, financial disputes between local authorities and foreign companies recruited to help clean Egypt's streets, have slowed down the disposal process.

"A few months after the governmental order to cull pigs, we have discovered that these animals with their stench were more bearable than the situation now in our streets," Salah Montasser wrote in the semi-official Al Ahram newspaper.

"Those who ordered the killing of the pigs made a hasty decision without thorough studies as these animals played a vital role in keeping our city clean as zabaleen went diligently about their business in order to feed their pigs and earn a living at the same time," he added.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Sep 13, 2009
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