In Cairo: Solar Heaters and Biogas Units on Rooftops


Some people talk about clean energy, waste reduction and the impeding energy crisis. Other people choose to take action. Hanna Fathy, a young man from Manshiyet Nasser—one of Cairo’s overly crowded urban slums—decides to take matters into his own hands and singlehandedly increase Cairo’s clean energy supply, using nothing but household garbage, sunlight, and the power of science.

Watch as he and his fellow environmentalists work towards building a greener, more sustainable and less polluted Egyptian capital; one rooftop at a time.

It may seem like the most unlikely place to be green, but Manshiyet Nasser and other similarly poor urban Cairo neighborhoods have been contributing to the green  movement for years, albeit unknowingly. The City’s garbage collectors, better known as “Zabbaleen”, have gathered and recycled Cairo’s garbage by hand for decades.

More recently though, young innovative environmentalists like Hanna along with several environmental organizations have taken their recycling efforts several steps further,  bringing about environmental change in one of the most polluted cities in the world.

By installing a homemade biogas unit on his rooftop, Hanna makes use of his household garbage by recycling organic waste and creating free energy, thereby reducing waste, energy consumption and fossil fuel pollution in one simple step. The biogas produced on household scale is mainly used for cooking, and can replace a considerable amount of the cooking gas used in one home.

In a further effort towards sustainability, Hanna and his colleagues from a non-governmental environmental organization known as “Solar Cities” have teamed up with the local craftspeople to install solar water heaters throughout the community. Solar water heaters can be extremely cost effective, especially when operated in warm sunny climates like we have here in Egypt.

The solar heating panels capture and retain heat from the Sun and transfer it to water, using the “greenhouse effect” to trap the solar thermal energy and keep the water heated.

Although the setup of a basic home-solar-water-heating system comprises many mature renewable energy technologies that have been well established for many years, it is still widely open to improvements and innovations.

Thomas Culhane, founder of the “Solar Cities” organization says that the local steel cutters, copper welders and glass makers who played a major role in building the solar water heaters have collectively created their own improved version of the system.

Shifting to a solar-powered water heater can help prevent climate change, Culhane says, because it lowers a household's carbon-dioxide emissions by as much as 35 percent.

To spread the word and get as much exposure as possible, Culhane and Hanna are trying to build the solar water heaters in places that are visible from prominent neighborhoods, in the hope that residents and visitors will take notice, be inspired, and think about making a difference themselves.


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