Dr. Mohamed Kassas was active until the end, says Mindy Baha El Din, Manager of Nature Conservation Egypt. Just yesterday Christians packed the St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo to bid farewell to their patriarch Pope Shenouda III, and today environmentalists throughout the country are mourning the loss of their own hero – the father of desertification and a “truly unique man.”
After spending more than a week in Manal hospital in Cairo after suffering from health complications, the 91 year old Professor Emeritus of Botany at the University of Cairo and former President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) died today.
Dr. Kassas was one of the first scientists on the planet to discover desertification after observing the phenomenon in Sudan, where he found that vegetation belts were receding to the south at a worrying rate of several kilometers a year – expanding the desert.
He raised the alarm in 1969 and in 1977, thanks largely to his efforts, combatting desertification became an international priority.
According to El Din, Dr. Kassas was “intrumental in getting the EEAA former and helped to pass law 102/1983 for the Natural Protectorates.” But to many, he was more than just a respected scientist.
“He is a role model,” says El Din, who alerted Green Prophet to his passing this morning. “He was very selfless and was a friend, adivisor and mentor to many.”
Even though he has suffered from health problems for the last few years, Dr. Kassas insisted upon walking to his office from his home in Dokki, and kept up meetings, interviews, and continue to help and mentor people.
He is considered a pioneer of Egypt’s environmental movement and his loss will be felt far and wide. It has been a sad week for Egypt, and indeed, a sad week for us all.
Dr. Kassas’ funeral will be held today at Omar Makram mosque after noon prayers.
More on Environmental Leaders in the Middle East:
Holy Land Leaders: Muslims, Jews, and Christians Link to Save the Planet
The Arab Feminist who Laid the Groundwork for Today’s Environmental Activists
Mohamed Kassas – Egypt’s Prophet of Desertification