CAIRO: There is an increased chance of air pollution this fall, as farmers in Egypt will likely burn their excess rice straw due to the government’s inability to collect it all this year, Youm7 reported Minister of Environment Khaled Fahmy as saying Sunday.
Fahmy said in a press statement that the percentage of cultivated rice this year grew by over 100 percent, which will result in a higher percentage of rice straw, Veto news website reported.
As the famers start harvesting their rice crop each autumn, they tend to get rid of some of the uncollected straw by burning it. This burnt straw creates a pall of “dark clouds” that blanket parts of Egypt for weeks.
“The farmers tend to burn the rice straw without using it, leading to the formation of the black cloud and environmental pollution,” Fahmy added.
The collected straw is mostly sold to companies that recycle it to be used as fertilizer, animal feed and soil for desert lands, said Mawaheb Abu el-Azm, the former head of the Environment Research Center, in comments to The Cairo Post Sunday.
But farmers, with a low amount of remaining rice straw, find burning straw cheaper and easier, added Abu el-Azm.
Each year, the Ministry of Irrigation determines the limit of rice cultivation for each area, as the rice crop consumes large amounts of water. “But what happens is that some farmers exceed the determined limits as they find cultivating rice yields a large harvest,” she continued.
Manal el-Eissawi, a Youm7 reporter covering the Ministry of Environment, told The Cairo Post, “The government is trying now to adopt techniques to adjust the collection process of rice straw and decrease the amount of burning.”
Additional reporting by Manal el-Eissawi