Environmental issues such as environmental attitudes are important socioenvironmental subjects for the non-Western countries such as Egypt. This study aimed to determine levels of attitude, awareness, and concern toward environmental issues among Alexandria Sanitary and Drainage Company (ASDCO) workers and stakeholders. A total of 284 participants (199 [70%] workers and 85 [30%] stakeholders) were surveyed by the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) scale of environmental attitude. Descriptive and analytic statistics were applied, and significance was considered at p ≤ .05. Respondents showed low awareness to environmental laws and guidelines (23.8% ± 33.2%), neutral attitude toward ecological issues (66.1% ± 6.2%), and high concern about different environmental problems (74.5% ± 26.3%). Awareness score was significantly and positively associated with attitude (χ2 = 8.63, p = .013) and worry (χ2 = 8.68, p = .013) scores. Respondents are quite aware that legislation is the key role in protection of environment. This study reflects low level of knowledge and high concern to different environmental problems. Knowledge is consistently and positively related to attitudes. Planning training and management needs to be linked to the environmental goals and objectives of the company.
- environmental issues
- sanitary drainage
Environmental problems and environmental issues have become some of the most important problems and issues in the late modernization age. Earlier, environmental problems have been accounted as technical and economical problems; however, these problems have been accounted as their societal dimensions as well as technical and economical dimensions for the past few decades (Tuna, 2004). Environmental issues are problematic for the Western and the non-Western countries. Environmental issues include the relationship between environment and society, effects of economic growth and technology on the environment, environmental degradation, air and water pollution, green house effect, global warming, and numerous other environmental problems (Tuna, 2004).
Environmental issues such as environmental attitudes are important socioenvironmental subjects for the non-Western countries such as Egypt. Environmental attitudes are generally accepted as responses from respondents for given environmental issues (Harper, 1996; Tuna, 2002). Increased knowledge about the environment is assumed to change environmental attitudes, and both environmental knowledge and attitudes are assumed to influence environmental policy. The investigation of public environmental attitudes is common in the developed, Western countries (Hinds, Carmichael, & Snowling, 2002); however, in developing countries, little research has focused on public environmental knowledge or the relationship between knowledge and environmental attitudes (Calabrese, Kalantari, Santucci, & Stanghellini, 2008; Tuna, 2004).
In Egypt, as the available natural resources must support a rapidly increasing population, sound management of such resources, together with a continuous improvement of the protection of the environment, is an evident necessity. Environmental issues are increasingly taking more public attention in Egypt for the past few decades. These issues are governed by Law 4 of 1994. This law provides for the creation of an agency for the protection and promotion of the environment, the Egyptian Environment Affairs Agency (EEAA). The EEAA is destined to formulate the general policy and to prepare the necessary plans for the protection and promotion of the environment. It should also follow-up the implementation of such plans. The Egyptian government has developed a 5-year environmental action plan (1997/ 1998-2001/2002) for attacking the country’s solid waste, air, and water pollution problems. Some provisions of the Executive Regulation of Law 4 were amended by Prime Minister’s Decree No. 1741 of 2005, and some provisions of Law 4 were amended by Law 9 of 2009 (Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs [MSEA], 2009a, 2009b, 2009c).
The aims of this study were to determine among Alexandria Sanitary and Drainage Company (ASDCO) workers and stakeholders (a) the levels of awareness of environmental management systems, laws, legislations, and guidelines; (b) the levels of attitudes toward some environmental issues; (c) the level of worry about the problems arising from lack of integrating environmental issues in the managerial process; and (d) the opinion about environmental legislations.
A cross-sectional survey was applied.
ASDCO is responsible for wastewater collection and treatment in Alexandria through approximately 2,800 km of pipelines and 120 lifting stations distributed over the main districts of the city. It treats about two million cubic meters of sewage (70% industrial source) per day. It prepares master plans for wastewater collection and treatment, implements urban wastewater projects, operates and maintains wastewater collection systems and wastewater treatment plants, and provides permits for discharge to the public sewer network. The violated partially treated effluent is directly discharged to Lake Maryut. The secondary-treated effluent is in compliance with Law 48 of 1982 for direct discharge to water bodies. The sludge is pumped where it is dewatered, then transported to a disposal site for disposal and composting (ASDCO, 2008-2009).
Target Population and Sampling
ASDCO consists of six main sectors: wastewater treatment sector, collection system operation and maintenance sector, technical projects sector, finance and administrative affairs sector, technical insurance sector, and CEO’s sector. Each sector involves a number of general directorates with a total number of 48 directorates. For each general directorate, a number of departments are included with a total of about 180 departments, with an estimated workforce of about 6,000.
Most of the environmental attitude research is based on random sampling; however, these samples only represent limited groups such as university students, community leaders, and environmentalist groups. The literature indicates that almost all environmental attitude studies are limited to regional samples (community, geographic area, state). The findings and generalizations of these studies have been limited and have not allowed national generalizations (McAllister, 2008).
To assess the level of attitude, awareness, and worry of ASDCO stakeholders and workers toward the environment, a random sample of 200 workers (as an environmental organization sample [EOS]) was selected representing all technical and administrative levels. For each department, a specific number of workers were allocated to represent technical and administrative jobs. Another random sample of 100 stakeholders (as a general public sample [GPS]) was selected randomly to represent relevant authorities, financial institutions, contractors, industry and business men, universities and research centers, nongovernmental organizations, building owners, and the general public in Alexandria. Those stakeholders were selected from those who visited ASDCO—within a period of 3 months—for official meetings, seeking service or training.
Data Collection Method
A structured questionnaire—of different scales—was constructed.
A structured questionnaire—of different scales—was constructed of five parts to collect data on the following:
Personal characteristics, such as age, gender, education level, occupation, job position, years of experience, and so forth.
Awareness of environmental legislations and guidelines. A total of seven questions on awareness of environmental legislations and World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) guidelines were used to be answered by “yes” or “no” (Ministry of Agriculture [MOA], 1983). One point was given to “yes” response. High level of awareness was considered with a score of 6 to 7 points, average with a score of 4 to 5 points, and low level with a score of 0 to 3 points. A total score was obtained by summing the scores for the seven questions, and then a percentage total score was calculated.
Environmental attitudes. A total of 15 attitudinal statements were used according to the modified version of Dunlap’s New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) scale, to assess the attitude of participants toward environment (Dunlap, Van Liere, Mertig, & Jones, 2000; Tarrant & Cordell, 1997). The NEP index was used by other researchers (Albrecht, Gordon, Eric, & Peter, 1982; Arcury & Timothy, 1987; Tarrant & Cordell, 1997). They have tested the index’s validity and reliability using data from different samples. Research results generally indicated that the index was reliable and valid. It is composed of 15 attitudinal statements. Agreement with the eight odd-numbered statements and disagreement with the seven even-numbered statements imply a proenvironmental view. Using a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 = strongly agree, a score can be calculated for each respondent. For negative statements, the opposite score was applied, with 1 = strongly agree and 5 = strongly disagree. A total score ranged from 15 to 75 points. The maximum score of 75 indicates a strong proecological position. Positive attitude was considered for the score of 60 or more points, and negative attitude was considered for the score of 45 points or less; otherwise, neutral attitude was considered. A total score was obtained by summing the scores for the 15 statements, and then a percentage total score was calculated.
Worry (concern) about environmental problems that arise due to lack of adoption of integrated environmental management (IEM) systems. A Worry scale composed of eight statements, each concerned with one environmental problem, was applied (Calabrese et al., 2008). The scale targeted worries about reuse of treated wastewater in agriculture and aquaculture, reuse of composted sludge in agriculture, contamination of public water bodies and fisheries, odor emissions, densification and network overloads, sewer overflows in rainy seasons, and the severe adverse health problems. A 4-point Likert-type scale of 0 to 3 was used, where 0 = no opinion, 1 = not worried, 2 = worried, and 3 = severely worried. Thus, a score of 24 points is indicative of severe worry or concern. Severe worry (concern) was considered with a score of 20+, average with a score of 15 to 19, and minimal or no worry with a score of <15 points. A total score was obtained by summing the scores for the eight items, and then a percentage total score was calculated.
Opinion about current environmental legislations/laws (Calabrese et al., 2008). A total of four statements were used targeting the adequacy of current laws for preventing environmental degradation, level of enforcing these laws, and whether they could cover the ordinary people or whether there is a need to pass more laws to protect the environment. Each statement was to be answered by “strongly agree,” “agree,” “neutral,” “disagree,” and “strongly disagree.”
An Arabic version of this questionnaire (and scales) was developed and checked by forward–backward translation by qualified interpreters (two bilingual professional translators). Then, it was subjected to a pilot study by 10 participants from ASDCO, to assess clarity, appropriateness of wording, understandability, and culture relevance of the translated version. All emerging reservations and notices were reviewed again by two public health and environment professionals, to reach a final form for the Arabic version. Reliability was tested using internal consistency and test–retest technique over a 2-week interval, using Cronbach’s alpha (α = .82).
All data were coded and analyzed using the SPSS software program (version 11.5). Descriptive statistics such as mean, median, range, and standard deviation were used. Frequencies (%) with their corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated. Data were presented using both tabular and graphical presentations, with pie, bar, histograms, and line graphs applied as appropriate. Both qualitative and quantitative analyses were applied to investigate associations and differences. Student t test, Mann–Whitney U test, and Kruskal–Wallis test were used to compare numerical data. For categorical data, chi-square test and Fisher exact test were applied. Multiple regression analyses were applied to identify the significant predictors of the levels of awareness, attitude, and worry among participants. Significance was considered at p ≤ .05.
Reliability of the Arabic version of the questionnaire was assessed in terms of internal consistency. Cronbach’s alpha was computed, and coefficient alpha of .82 was considered adequate. Test–retest reliability was also assessed using Cronbach’s alpha and Pearson’s correlation coefficient (r). Construct validity of the checklist was assessed using expert opinion, and the final version was approved accordingly.
Demographic Characteristics of Participants
A total of 284 participants (Table 1) were surveyed by a self-reported structured questionnaire to assess their level of awareness of environmental laws and guidelines, attitudes toward some environmental issues, and opinion about environmental legislations. The majority of participants were ASDCO workers (199, 70.1%), and 85 (29.9%) were stakeholders. More than half (56%) of the participants were males, and 44% were females (M:F ratio = 1.27). There was a significant gender difference with regard to type of participants, with higher male to female ratio among the stakeholders than among workers (M:F ratio = 1.93 and 1.07, respectively, χ2 = 4.82, p = .028). More than one third of all participants (39.5%) were 50 years or older, and those younger than 30 constituted 17.2% (32.3% of stakeholders and 12.4% of workers, χ2 = 13.98, p = .003). The mean age of all participants was 43.73 ± 11.25 years (40.81 ± 14.34 for stakeholders and 44.66 ± 9.93 for workers, t = 1.97, p = .052). With regard to education completed, about three quarters (73.2%) of all participants completed university education or higher. This constituted 88.9% of stakeholders and 66.8% of workers (χ2 = 14.28, p < .001).
Years of experience for workers in ASDCO ranged from 1 year to 39 years with a mean of 19.05 ± 9.82 years. With regard to job position of workers, these were as follows: general director (7.5%), head section (30.7%), worker (31.2%), and technician/secretary (30.7%). Regarding the nature of work (technical/administrative), workers were nearly equally distributed on both types (50.8% administrative and 49.2% technical).
Awareness of Environmental Issues
Table 2 shows survey responses to seven awareness questions. It shows that the level of awareness of participants was generally low with an overall percentage mean score of only 23.8% ± 33.2%. Few participants reported that they have heard of the different issues concerning environmental laws and guidelines. For examples, only one third of all participants (32.6%, 95% CI = [27.1, 38.1]) had heard the term integrated environmental management practices (IEMPs), and only 21.5% (95% CI = [16.7, 26.3]) believe that the use of IEMP for ASDCO would protect the natural environment and public health more than the conventional management practices. The majority of respondents were not aware of the following: the new features in environmental management in the Egyptian context, as specified in the Egyptian Environmental Law 4 of 1994 (74%), Egyptian standards as set in Egyptian Code for water reuse in agriculture (75%), WHO guidelines for the composted sludge reuse (76%), FAO guidelines for heavy metals content for the composted sludge reuse (80%), and the concept of “sustainable development” (77%).
Environmental Attitude (NEP Scale)
Table 3 presents a summary of the distribution of the participants’ responses to the NEP statements. Of a total attitude score of 60, the mean attitude score of 49.57 ± 4.68 (percentage mean attitude score = 66.1% ± 6.2%) by the survey respondents was shown, indicating a neutral attitude toward ecological issues by respondents in Alexandria.
Further analysis of the data reveals more about the range of ecological attitudes of the respondents. The frequency distribution showed that more than 50% of the respondents indicated a proecological view toward Statements 3, 5, 7, 9, 13, 15. More than 90% of respondents believed that “plants and animal have as much right as humans to exist” (Statement 7), and more than 85% believed that “humans are still subject to the laws of nature despite our special abilities” (Statement 9). Statements 6 and 14 found more than 50% of respondents with an ant ecological view. To be more specific, 92% respondents believed that the earth has plenty of natural resources if we just learn how to develop them, and 54% of respondents agree with the statement that humans will eventually learn enough about how nature works to be able to control it.
Worries About Environmental Problems
Table 4 shows concern of participants toward some environmental problems. Participants were generally worried about all problems with varying degrees, with an overall percentage mean score of 74.5% ± 26.3. Very worry about the severe adverse health problems (65.5%), contamination of public water bodies and fisheries (58.3%), odor emissions (57.6%), and densification and network overloads (52.5%) ranked first. These were followed by very worry about sewer overflows in rainy seasons (44.6%), reuse of treated wastewater in an aquaculture (43.4%), and reuse of sludge in agriculture (43.3%). Generally speaking, about one half (49.1%) of participants were severely worried about these environmental problems, and only 17.0% reported no or minimal worry.
Awareness, Attitude and Worry Mean Scores and Participants’ Characteristics
When testing the association between level of awareness and some characteristics (Table 5), the level of awareness was significantly associated with the following characteristics: age group (χ2 =14.60, p = .002), education (z = 3.08, p = .002), years of experience (χ2 = 7.90, p = .048), type of work (χ2 = 2.78, p = .005), and job position (χ2 = 15.44, p = .001). However, after adjustment for potential confounders, using the multiple regression analysis, awareness score was significantly associated with only type of work, with higher scores for technical workers (t = 3.31, p = .005). Meanwhile, the attitude score was not significantly associated with any of the listed variables.
When testing the association between the total score of worry and some characteristics, the following characteristics were significantly associated with worry score: type of participant (z = 2.82, p = .005) and years of experience (χ2 = 7.86, p = .049). However, after adjusting for potential confounders, worry score was significantly higher among those with higher education (t = 2.09, p = .037) and among the workers than among the stakeholders (t = 4.23, p < .001).
Figure 1 shows that workers were more concerned of the environmental problems than were the stakeholders, with a significantly higher percentage mean score of worry (78.6% vs. 64.7%, p = .001). However, this difference was neither significant for environmental knowledge (24.4% vs. 22.4%, p = .63) nor for environmental attitude (66.2% vs. 65.8%, p = .64).
Association Between Awareness, Attitude, and Worry
Figure 2 shows that there was a significant decrease in the mean attitude score from 51.67 among participants with high level of awareness to 49.63 and 49.20 among those with fair and low levels of awareness, respectively (χ2 = 8.63, p = .013). Moreover, a significant decrease in the mean score of worry was shown from 20.47 among participants with high level to 20.0 and 17.23 among those with fair and low levels of awareness, respectively (χ2 = 8.68, p = .013).
Opinion of Participants About Environmental Legislation
Table 6 shows that respondents are quite aware that legislation plays a key role in the protection of the environment, with only 29.6% considering that the current legislation is adequate; 70.8% strongly agree or agree that legislation could be considered adequate, but that enforcement is poor. There is a generalized consensus about the need for more legislation, which could orient the decisions of both ordinary people and companies. In both cases, more than 80% of respondents agree with the call for better legislation. Overall, results of the survey show that people are ready to give time or to organize themselves to take part in a campaign to protect the environment, but they believe that money for environmental protection should come from the government.
Awareness and commitment are indicators of environmental protection because they describe workers’ knowledge and understanding of environmental impacts and recognition that action is necessary to lessen impacts and improve environmental protection (Hickox, 2003). Generally speaking, the majority of respondents (78.9%) showed low level of awareness to environmental laws and guidelines, with only 12.0% showing a high level of awareness. This high level of awareness was significantly evident among those with higher education and those on technical work. These findings were not in agreement with the findings of a survey in Louisiana, where the majority of respondents had heard about most of the environmental guidelines (Zhong, 2003). For example, an average of 88% of respondents had heard the term Best Management Practices (BMPs).
Environmental attitudes are recognized as an indicator and component of environmentalism. The average attitude score of 49.57 ± 4.68 by the survey respondents indicated a neutral attitude toward ecological issues by respondents in Alexandria. This mean score was slightly higher than the mean score of 45.61 by the survey respondents in Louisiana (Zhong, 2003). However, the score in the present study ranged from 38 to 60 points, indicating variability of attitudes among respondents. These findings were in agreement with the finding of a previous study in Tehran, where the respondents showed mixed environmental attitudes (Calabrese et al., 2008). However, in a similar survey in Turkey, a high level of positive environmental attitude was shown (Tuna, 2004).
Although participants generally showed low level of awareness of the environmental legislations, they were generally worried about all environmental problems with varying degrees. Generally speaking, more than one half of participants were severely worried about the severe adverse health problems, contamination of public water bodies and fisheries, odor emissions, and densification and network overloads. Almost half of a survey’s respondents in Scotland were particularly worried about two environmental issues—raw sewage put into the sea and nuclear waste (Hinds et al., 2002). This reflects the high concern of the participants—in the present study—to these environmental problems. In a survey in Turkey, a moderate level of concern was reported (Tuna, 2004). However, these findings were not in agreement with the findings of a previous study of concern of residents in Tehran, where environmental concerns did not appear to be a priority for the great majority of the respondents (Calabrese et al., 2008). Workers in ASDCO reported significantly higher concern about environmental problems than stakeholders did, even after adjusting for all possible confounders, a finding that might reflect the fear impact of an environmental organization on its workers.
Although the effect of knowledge is not conclusive, there have been several studies suggesting that knowledge plays an important role in enhancing the environmental attitude and behavior relationship by providing individuals with the ability to better formulate alternate views and present arguments to support their beliefs and behaviors (McFarland & Boxall, 2003). In the present study, the level of awareness of environmental legislations and guidelines was significantly associated with levels of attitude toward environment and worry about environmental problems. There was a significant decrease in the mean attitude score and a significant decrease in the mean score of worry as the level of awareness decreases. With this correlation of awareness and attitudes, the low level of environmental knowledge may have disturbing implications for environmental policy (Arcury, 1990).
Respondents are quite aware that legislation plays a key role in the protection of the environment. Overall, results of the survey show that people are ready to give time or to organize themselves to take part in a campaign to protect the environment, but they believe that money for environmental protection should come from the government. This was in agreement with other previous studies (Calabrese et al., 2008). However, this finding was not in agreement with the finding of an Australian study, where the majority of the public (66.5%) reported that they were prepared to pay higher prices or to accept reduced living standards to protect the environment (McAllister, 2008). Moreover, in a British survey, 42% were willing to pay higher prices (National Centre for Social Research, 2009), and in the United States, 45% (General Social Survey [GSS], 2000) were willing to do so. These findings might reflect the impact of the difference in the standard of living in developed and developing countries on their willingness to participate in environmental protection.
This study has some limitations, which should be considered when interpreting these findings. First, this survey was carried out in one company, and response of participants would not represent the response of whole Egyptians. However, ASDCO is the holding company for water and wastewater in the entire Egypt. Second, we cannot be certain of the causal direction of the associations observed between awareness, attitude, and worry, due to the study’s cross- sectional design. A longitudinal study with repeated measures of these parameters would be desirable in the future.
In conclusion, this study shows that for ASDCO workers and stakeholders, the environment is not yet thought to be an important problem, when compared with other social and economic issues. The majority of respondents were not aware of the followings: the new features in environmental management in the Egyptian context, as specified in the Egyptian Environmental Law 4 of 1994, Egyptian standards as set in Egyptian Code for water reuse in agriculture, WHO guidelines for the composted sludge reuse, FAO guidelines for heavy metals content for the composted sludge reuse, and the concept of sustainable development. Generally speaking, the majority of respondents showed neutral attitude toward ecological issues. Participants, especially the ASDCO workers, were generally worried about all problems with varying degrees. There was significant direct association between the level of awareness and the severity of worry. Overall, results of the survey showed that people were ready to give time or to organize themselves to take part in a campaign to protect the environment, but they believed that money for environmental protection should come from the government.
Planning training and management needs to be linked to the environmental goals and objectives of the company. Training programs should be measured and evaluated as it is the way for competency awareness, capacity building, and institutional development.
The authors would like to thank Ms. Aisha Mahfouz and Mr. Mahmoud Salam, the research coordinators at King Abdullah International Medical Research Center, King Saud Bin-Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for their help in formatting the references and tables.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding The author(s) received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article.
- © The Author(s) 2012
Siham H. Shoukry, PhD, is the general manager of total quality management and sustainable development, Alexandria Sanitary Drainage Company (ASDCO), Egypt.
Samia G. Saad is a professor of environmental health at the High Institute of Public Health, Alexandria University, and environmental health consultant to UN organizations.
Ayman M. Eltemsahi is a professor at the College of Management and Technology–Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport.
Mostafa A. Abolfotouh is professor and head of the medical team of Biobanking Section, King Abdullah International Medical Research Center, King Saud Bin-Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.