Cairo sees ‘low air quality’ due to burnt agricultural leftovers
Small black clouds of smoke, which activists
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CAIRO: Some districts and neighborhoods in Cairo and Delta have witnessed “low air quality” early Saturday due to accumulated clouds of smoke from open burning of agricultural leftovers, according to the Ministry of Environment.

The reported low quality has lasted for approximately three hours, and is expected to return to “moderate” status Sunday, the ministry stated.

Satellite images have been released by the ministry showing burning spots covered with clouds of smoke in Sharqia, Dakahlia and Gharbiya governorates.

In the meantime, piles of thick smoke blanketed some areas in a recurring phenomenon called “black clouds,” which occurs every fall.

The phenomenon has existed in Egypt since 1999, and one of the main factors of its happening is the annual burning of the rice straw after the harvest season.

The ministry previously said it is “hopeful” to control the burning process through cooperation with farmers to collect the leftovers to be pressed and converted into fertilizers. It has also imposed penalties on violating farmers.

The ministry has converted so far a total of 9,169 tons of rice straw to fertilizers, said the statement.

As part of the ministry’s efforts, some 293 fires were controlled, and an inspection of the exhaust of cars found 25out of 160 in violation of air quality standards.

Also, eight out of 42 factories were found violating, and legal actions were against them.

Chest disease physicians have warned of severe “health repercussions” during the “black clouds” phenomenon, saying that patients with respiratory problems are the persons most affected by the highly polluted air.

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