The once-lush Cairo suburb of Heliopolis is noticeably less green than it was two years ago, before the Egyptian revolution. Our Observer tells us that both local authorities and residents have been cutting down trees haphazardly, and that due to a leadership void that has persisted since the revolution, there is nobody to turn to for help.
This problem is not limited to the upscale neighbourhood of Heliopolis: numerous bloggers and local journalists around Egypt have raised the alarm after noticing an increase in trees being cut down or mutilated. In some cases, they point the finger at local authorities, accusing them of poor decision-making; in others, they accuse the federal government of negligence for failing to stop contractors from cutting down healthy trees.
FRANCE 24 has called the local authorities in Heliopolis as well as the environment ministry seeking comment, but has yet to receive a response.
Satellite images from Google Earth.

“Since the revolution, it seems that at least half of Heliopolis’ trees have disappeared”

Michel Hanna is a pharmacist who lives in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. Over the past year, he has posted numerous photos of cut-down and mutilated trees on his blog and on the Facebook page Heliopolis Eyes, a local citizen journalism group.
I grew up in Heliopolis, and always loved our beautiful trees and the shade they provide. But since the revolution, it seems to me that at least half of them have disappeared.
The culprits are both local authorities and local residents. The local authorities have cut down many trees on the sidewalks and in public gardens. They claim they are “pruning” some of the trees, but cutting a 10 metre-high tree down to 2 metres is not pruning a tree, it’s killing it.
Many local residents, meanwhile, cut down trees on the sidewalks in front of their houses for silly reasons -- for example because they don’t want to sweep dead leaves from their doorsteps, or because they don’t want bird excrement to land on their cars when they park under the trees. [One columnist for the Egypt Independent recently reported that all the trees lining his street’s sidewalk had been cut down by shopkeepers after a falling branch damaged a client’s car. The shopkeepers they argued that they were forced to do this since the local government had stopped taking care of these trees.] They cut down these trees with total impunity. Before the revolution, nobody would have dared to do this, for fear of getting in trouble; today, no one is afraid of the authorities anymore.
A tree whose branches were "pruned". Photo by our Observer.
“Every day, we are losing more trees.”
These days, when you call the police to report a thief, they don’t care; they have bigger problems. [Crime surged in Egypt after the revolution]. So if you call them about someone cutting down a tree, they’ll just laugh at you. I called the environment ministry when I saw the local authorities cutting down perfectly healthy trees, but the ministry told me the trees were the property of the local government, so they couldn’t do anything. What we need, of course, are stronger environmental laws, but since Egypt is currently without a parliament, that seems to be a far-off dream. [Egypt currently lacks a functional law-making lower house of parliament; elections are to be held within two months].
Every day, we are losing more trees. People are busy with many problems here in Egypt: our struggling economy, our bitter politics. Nobody cares much about the environment right now. But if this continues, we’ll soon be living in an urban desert.
A street in Heliopolis, before and after trees were cut down. Photo by our Observer.
Satellite images from Google Earth.
A palm tree in a Heliopolis street, and the hole where it once stood.
Before and after: a street in Heliopolis.