It is unlikely anyone has ever come to this city and commented on how clean the streets are. But this litter-strewn metropolis is now
wrestling with a garbage problem so severe it has managed to incite its weary residents and command the attention of the president.
"There is a strict and intensive effort now from the state to address this issue", said Haitham Kamal, a spokesman for the ministry of environmental affairs. But the crisis should not have come as a surprise.
When the government killed all the pigs in Egypt this spring — in what public health experts said was a misguided attempt to combat swine flu — it was warned the city would be overwhelmed with trash.
The pigs used to eat tons of organic waste. Now the pigs are gone and the rotting food piles up on the streets of middle-class neighborhoods like Heliopolis and in poor streets of communities like Imbaba.
What started out as an impulsive response to the swine flu threat has turned into a social, environmental and political problem for Egypt. It has exposed the failings of a government where the power is concentrated at the top, where decisions are often carried out with little consideration for their consequences and where follow-up is often nonexistent.