Sunday,24 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)
Sunday,24 February, 2019
Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Air pollution control

Mahmoud Bakr reports on measures to decrease the intense air pollution which peaks in September and October


Air pollution control
Air pollution control

“Measures to overcome bouts of extreme air pollution will be applied year round, and in coordination with all concerned authorities,” Minister of the Environment Yasmine Fouad said at a press conference on Monday.

At the same press conference Mohamed Salah, executive director of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), said sporadic bouts of intense pollution have occurred since 1998 and are a result of polluting activities that take place year round.

“Yet each year, in September and October, pollution appears at its heaviest, caused by the thermal solstice which prevents pollution particles from escaping to the atmosphere’s uppermost layer, the exosphere, and this coincides with the burning of rice hay,” said Salah.

Despite a smaller rice crop this year, and a consequent decline in rice hay burning, “the mission to fight bouts of intense air pollution remains difficult,” Fouad told reporters.

“Rice burning is not the only cause of air pollution. Self-ignition of landfills, pollutants from unauthorised industrial facilities and vehicle exhaust must also be factored in.”

“Fighting pollution will not be limited to a specific period. The Ministry of the Environment has prepared a package of measures to decrease all kinds of pollution.”

Together with municipal bodies and governorates the ministry will monitor the landfills most vulnerable to self-ignition and intervene early to put fires out, said Fouad.

She added that her ministry had also acquired new equipment to measure vehicle exhaust and is working to control harmful emissions emanating from unauthorised industrial facilities.

Nineteen projects are currently being assessed, in cooperation with the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation, to create jobs for young people and open up sustainable development opportunities, she said.

Even with reduced rice production the figures are daunting. According to Salah, “1.2 million feddans of rice generates three million tons of hay and the window for burning it is short.”

To make matters worse, equipment required to dispose of rice hay is very expensive.

One answer to the problem being pursued by the Environment Ministry is to reach out to those who want to recycle the hay. Fouad believes efforts to control extreme air pollution could even be turned into an opportunity if young people are encouraged to come up with out-of-the-box ideas to re-use agricultural waste.

Salah says there are now 500 contractors across Egypt recycling rice hay. Machinery has been made available to them to collect and compress the waste and small grinders can be rented to grind the stubble. And with the price of animal feed continuing to rise, recycling rice hay into fodder is proving cost-effective for smallholders.

To tackle multiple sources of pollution the EEAA, in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture, “constantly inspects factories, sanctions violations, restricts rice hay burning and places limits on emissions from charcoal-making pits,” says Salah.

“We are also encouraging more modern charcoal-making pits that emit less pollution and farmers have already started making them.”

He stressed that to achieve sustainable development it is imperative to factor in the environmental costs of any project being carried out.

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