ALEXANDRIA— At first glance, the once vibrant fishing community of Al-Max in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria looks hostile to life. More than a dozen petroleum, cement, iron, and steel factories dominate the landscape, emptying gallons of industrial waste into the choked canals and polluting the vital waterway that links Egypt's Nile Delta to the Mediterranean. The overwhelming stench of chemical waste hovers thick in the humid air.
Alexandria’s celebrated canals once drew comparisons to Venice, but now piles of rubble line the banks where vibrantly painted homes once stood—the few remaining houses are set to be demolished at the end of August. After a devastating flash flood in 2015 that left seven people dead, the Egyptian government decided to widen the canals of Al-Max necessitating, the government said, the relocation of the canal-side residents to newly constructed, public developments.