A farmer drives a tractor through smoke from burning rice straw in preparation for the next harvest in Cairo - REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
CAIRO – 24 August 2018: The Chief Executive Officer of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), Mohamed Salah, stated on Friday that legal action has been taken by the Ministry of Environment against farmers who continue to burn rice straw. The ministry seeks to curb “the black cloud” which is regarded as one of the main causes of climate change.
The black cloud is a thick layer of smog from burning rice straw that spreads across Cairo for an extended period of time.
A number of awareness seminars on measures to address the sources of air pollution and recycling rice straw and benefiting from it has been given to citizens and farmers in villages in Egypt, he said.
The total area cultivated with rice amounts to 840,000 on feddans (one feddan is equal to 1.038 acres), according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation.
In 2017, Minister of Environment Khaled Fahmy said that Egypt has managed to turn rice straw from waste into a product.
In a press conference, Fahmy said that the government also adopted measures to encourage gathering rice straw to put into effect an agro-waste system introduced by the ministry instead of burning it. The new system has been implemented in Sharqiya and is planned to be carried out in Beheira, he said. The system involves newly-invented machines, he further noted.
Fahmy stressed that the new measures have led to a decline in burning the rice straw, the main cause of what is known as "the black cloud".
The latest and most rapid changes of Egypt’s weather affected crop production and likely increased agricultural land pests according to several parliamentarians’ testimonies in May 2018, demanding a new strategy to deal with the ongoing climate change.
In statements to Egypt Today, parliamentarians argued that the government needs to provide alternative agricultural crops that consume little water than the currently used by farmers to decrease the land’s damages. They also demanded developing different irrigation systems for fields, along with providing the needed instructions for farmers to protect their lands.
Parliamentarian Shereen Farag told Egypt Today that Minister of Environment Khaled Fahmy needs to announce his plan regarding climate change effects on the agricultural lands, along with setting a proactive plan to deal with it in the early stages in the future.
“The government needs to take into its consideration the climate change reasons and study how it will affect our agricultural lands and accordingly our crop production,” Farag said, adding that the same demands have been issued earlier to the government; however, nothing happened.
Also, Parliamentarian Ahmed Abdel Wahed said that the government, and specifically the Ministry of Irrigation needs to set a clear plan on the short and long term to face the consequences of the rapidly changing climate along with its severe effects on the lands, especially when the country witnesses long periods of frequent rains or humidity.
Egypt’s weather has been witnessing severe changes during the past period and varied between extreme cold and rain to sandstorms and high temperatures.