Egypt prepares for arrival of ‘black cloud’

Local Development Minister Mohamed Ahmed Attiya has decided to make preparations to combat the burning of rice straw during the rice harvesting season, which takes place in September of each year and results in the phenomenon commonly known as the “black cloud.”

The decision was made in collaboration with the Environment Ministry.

The security vacuum will not be an excuse for burning rice straw this year, said Attiyah. He said he has instructed district and village heads to cancel their vacations and ordered operations rooms be formed for three months at the Local Development Ministry and in the governorates to receive complaints about burning rice straw.

Rice straw can be used as food for animals, so some governors are considering converting it into fodder, Attiyah added. The government will also begin conducting studies on how to curb the harmful practice.

Gharbiya Governor Mohamed Abdel Qader said that in his governorate, one of the largest for rice cultivation, farmers will be punished for it.

The Local Development Ministry has formed committees of irrigation and agriculture workers, and staff from local municipalities, police and the military to help stop the burning of rice straw.

The “black cloud” – pollution throught to arise mainly from the burning of rice straw – will once again darken Cairo's skies in late October and may worsen this year, the Environment Ministry warned on Thursday.

Health officials say the “black cloud” can lead to respiratory problems such as asthma and allergies.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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