The Egyptian mass transport fleet is aging – the average age of a taxi in Egypt is 32 years old, more than 64,000 microbuses are greater than 20 years old, and nearly 70% of all registered vehicles in the country are greater than 15 years old. The aging fleet is prone to frequent break-downs and, because older vehicles are typically unequipped with modern catalytic converters, low quality emissions.
Distribution of Age of All Registered Vehicles in Egypt
The aging fleet is a contributing factor to Egypt’s relatively high road fatality rates and low air quality levels. To illustrate, the average number of fatalities per 100,000 registered vehicles in OECD countries is 13, whereas the national average in Egypt is 286 fatalities per 100,000 registered motor vehicles– more than 2000% higher than the OECD average.,3] Further, according to the most recent Egypt State of the Environment Report prepared by the Egypt Environmental Affairs Agency in 2009, vehicle emissions in the Greater Cairo Region account for 26% of total PM10 pollution, 90% of total carbon monoxide emissions, 90% of total hydrocarbon emissions, and 50% of total nitrogen oxide emissions.
To accelerate fleet turnover, in 2008, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif announced a plan to implement a national vehicle scrapping program to accelerate fleet turnover, which is currently under implementation in the Greater Cairo Region (targeting taxis for the first phases) and is rapidly changing the face of city – since April 2009, more than half of the eligible taxi fleet in Cairo have been voluntarily scrapped. The World Bank Carbon Finance Unit is working with the government to apply for carbon finance to support the development of a recycling facility, to ensure the vehicles are permanently scrapped and do not resurface elsewhere in the continent.
What I have found particularly intriguing about the program (aside from the very clever structuring of the program – more on that in a later blog), are the emotional reactions the scheme has elicited from the vehicle owners – and my colleagues.
It is difficult to imagine that over the span of my entire lifetime, each of the old black and white taxis I ride in Cairo have been plying the streets, from the Pyramids to the city to oases to the airports. Think of the accumulated stories! Actually, someone already has – Taxi, by Khaled Al Khamissi, is a bitter-sweet anthology of stories about Cairo’s intrepid taxi drivers.
After reading Taxi, I would have thought, regardless of the danger, that many of these men (and women) who have been tied to their cars for so many decades would be saddened, heartbroken about the prospect of parting with their trusted Ladas and Peugeots. And maybe those drivers do exist. But having seen drivers when they pick up their new vehicles – and how it is a family affair, with kids and spouses and pride and photographs – I see that it may not be so difficult to part with these old friends after all.
Now, my colleagues, on the other hand… Since program inception, some colleagues have been…I would say, wistfully…sharing war stories, about inopportune break-downs, masterful fixes, and the many close calls. They are really good stories! And they have made me realize the magnitude of what the Egypt Vehicle Scrapping and Recycling Program is seeking to acheive. Taking these relics off the roads is not just about improving safety and emissions or stimulating the economy — it is a cultural shift, a push away from the past into the future, whatever that future may hold…
Taking her out for one last spin…