October 31, 2009 § 7 Comments
so there are rumors that schools in egypt are going to close again because of swine flu. the whole swine flu scare here seems so absurd.
Before leaving Cairo earlier this summer, I spent a day in the zabbaleen (garbage collectors) neighborhood. This area is home to 30,000 people who exist in a symbiotic relationship with the city: they go door-to-door to collect Cairo’s trash and then recycle it in small workshops. But one of the links of this cycle is now missing: pigs. The Egyptian government–prey to hysteria and very probably religious prejudice (pigs are raised by Christians in Egypt and considered unclean by Muslims)–ordered a total pig cull after the outbreak of the so-called Mexican flu. Cairo’s garbage collectors happen to be Christians, and the pigs were used to dispose of tons of organic garbage. With the pigs gone, not only have hundreds of families lost their livelihood overnight, but the city has lost an efficient way of disposing of organic waste, which the zabbaleen now dump in lots around the city. You can hear a detailed story I did about this, for the Radio Netherlands environmental show Earthbeat, here. (Also, check out Liam Stack’s reporting on this issue for the Christian Science Monitor).
The pig cull is just the latest blow to the zabbaleen community. The authorities consider the whole area an embarrassment and are constantly scheming to relocate it far out in the desert and out of sight. A few years ago a plan was introduced to “modernize” the garbage collection system by subcontracting to modern companies. But the whole thing seems to be a bit of a scam: the garbage companies actually subcontract the zabbaleen (who get paid less than when working for themselves); the recycling rate is much lower. Everyone in Cairo now gets billed for this supposedly new-and-improved garbage collection service, but also still pays their local zabbaal, who continues to come to their door.
so here in abdeen, cairo. now all that trash gets picked up a lot less regularly and gets dumped in just larger trash piles rather than being eaten/recycled by the pigs. because the egyptian govt decided to kill all the pigs.
a lot more trash on the streets.
which means that the street cats and ferrets and rats are having a field day. and of course the street cats also leave their feces in the streets. which is not picked up either.
which leads to my kid walking home. and getting roundworm from the cat shit.