Enviro Ministry warns ‘black cloud’ will hit on Friday
Black cloud spreads over Egypt as farmers burn rice stalks

The Environment Ministry is considering new methods to combat the “black cloud” phenomenon that is now descending on Cairo as farmers begin their yearly burning of rice hay in preparation for the next growing season, reported the privately owned newspaper Al-Shorouk.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb met with Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy on Thursday morning to discuss the problem. The ministry is reportedly considering launching a number of small stations to collect rice hay and compress it, then deliver the bundles to recycling plants, in order to cut down on highly polluting burning practices.

On Wednesday, Fahmy declared that the cloud of pollution would worsen starting on Friday, and was to last for an estimated 72 hours due to the constant burning of rice hay and the lack of wind to disperse the accumulating smoke.

After Thursday’s meeting, Fahmy said he would visit Sharqiya on Saturday to inspect the first rice hay compression station. He explained that the project is being carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Supplies, and that the collected rice hay would be held in storage areas allocated for wheat crops.

In a phone interview with the 90 Minutes television show aired on the privately owned Mehwar TV Channel, Fahmy said that the Environment Ministry is monitoring the formation and progression of the black cloud via satellites in order to identify areas where rice hay is being burned, so that perpetrators can be reported.

Investigative groups will also be dispatched around the country to report violations, the minister continued. Environment officials also plan to collaborate with agricultural associations to spread awareness among farmers of the dangers associated with burning rice hay.