CAIRO: Ahmed Aboul Seoud, deputy minister of State for Environmental Affairs, linked the appearance of the “brown cloud to burning wood in East Asia, a practice strongly condemned by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), he told Daily News Egypt.
It is unlikely that Egypt will be affected by the brown cloud, he said, but added that he cannot say for sure.
Aboul Seoud, who is also manager of the air quality department at the ministry, denied ever commenting on the matter before, refuting news reports that quoted him on the issue.
According to Aboul Seoud, the brown cloud is formed due to wood burning in countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and China. The UNEP, he added, is currently working on putting an end to this practice.
On the other hand, Kawthar Hefny, also from the ministry’s air quality department, was not aware of the brown cloud neither was she aware of UNEP s Nov. 13 report on the matter.
However, she ruled out the possibility that the cloud could reach Egypt from Asia since the direction of the wind should take the cloud east, not west.
“The atmospheric Brown Cloud as a whole stretches from the Arabian Peninsulas to China and into the western Pacific, said Nick Nuttall, spokesperson of the office of the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in Nairobi city in Kenya.
“It may be more than 6,000 km [wide] as that is the distance from a Gulf state country like Qatar to China, Nuttall told Daily News Egypt in an email interview.
Asked where the center of the cloud is located, Nuttall said that it is not an easy answer. “The cloud studied in this report in concentrated over Asia as Asia is currently the source of a great deal of the pollution, he said.
The report identified 13 cities as Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABC) hotpots; Bangkok, Beijing, Cairo, Dhaka, Karachi, Kolkata, Lagos, Mumbai, New Delhi, Seoul, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tehran.
According to Nuttall, the “ABC is in some ways a double phenomenon.
Pollution generated at the ground from the burning of fossil fuels, biomass and other sources becomes smog with health and other consequences but then rises up into the atmosphere and then spreads across countries and regions and indeed if it gets high enough can travel around the world albeit at lower concentrations.
“Cairo was listed as among the 13 hotspots because it is one point source of such particles which in turn become part of this big brown cloud phenomenon. It may be that the cloud is not especially acute over Egypt but that emissions from Egypt are part of the overall cloud, Nuttall added.
The UNEP report indicates that “cities from Beijing to New Delhi are getting darker, glaciers in ranges like the Himalayas are melting faster and weather systems becoming more extreme, in part, due to the combined effects of human-made ABCs and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
According to the report, brown clouds are expected to appear as a result of burning of fossil fuels and biomass, [that] in some cases and regions are aggravating the impacts of greenhouse gas-induced climate change.
The report also stated that the cloud will have serious impacts on air quality and agriculture in Asia increasing risks to human health and food production for three billion people.
Achim Steiner, UNEP s under-secretary general and executive director said in the report: One of UNEP s central mandates is science-based early warning of serious and significant environmental challenges. I expect the Atmospheric Brown Cloud to be now firmly on the international community s radar as a result of today s report.