By Yasmine Saleh
First Published: November 19, 2008
CAIRO: The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) warned of the passing of the “brown” cloud, which is full of toxic chemical material, over the Middle East.
The cloud is around three kilometers long.
According to the UNEP report, which was first released on Nov. 13, the cloud would pass over the Middle East within three to seven days. Some suspect that the fog that has engulfed the city on Wednesday is part of the cloud. No reports have confirmed such claims.
When contacted by Daily News Egypt, officials at the Ministry of Environmental Affairs were unavailable for comment by press time.
According to the report, “the cloud center is in South Korea and is called brown because of its brown color.”
The report also indicated that the cloud is considered to be of great danger to the international environment.
“The cloud will have a serious reaction that might lead to the death of thousands of people and harm agricultural products,” read the report.
According to Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general and executive director of UNEP, the cloud started to move from Asia to Africa and the Middle East.
The report also stated that the cloud had serious impacts on air quality and agriculture in Asia “increasing risks to human health and food production for three billion people.”
“Cities from Beijing to New Delhi are getting darker, glaciers in ranges like the Himalayas are melting faster and weather systems are becoming more extreme, in part, due to the combined effects of human-made Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABCs) and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” stated the UNEP report.
The report has also identified 13 cities as ABC hotpots. Those cities are: Bangkok, Beijing, Cairo, Dhaka, Karachi, Kolkata, Lagos, Mumbai, New Delhi, Seoul, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tehran, where soot levels are 10 percent of the total mass of all human-made particles.
According to the report, cities with large concentrations of ABCs may be getting cloudier which might lead to a 25 percent decrease in visibility.
According to Steiner, the clouds can lead to serious respiratory problems and complications in blood vessels.
As for the agricultural products, the cloud might lead to a decrease in the productivity and the quality of products like rice, wheat and Soya beans.
The report also explained that the brown cloud resulted from burning of fossil fuels and biomass in some cases and regions aggravating the impacts of greenhouse gas-induced climate change.
“Globally, however, brown clouds may be countering or ‘masking’ the warming impacts of climate change by between 20 and up to 80 percent, the researchers suggest,” the report indicated.
On the other hand, Sabri Abdel Hadi, manager of the health department at Egypt’s Ministry for Environmental Affairs, said that “he did not receive any information about this cloud” and added that “South Korea is tens of thousands kilometers away from Egypt which makes it unreasonable for the cloud to reach Egypt,” according to his statement to Amal Al Omah news website, that is run by the Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria.
Dr Ahmed Aboul Seoud, manager of the quality of air department at the Ministry for Environmental Affairs, also told the website that the arrival of this cloud to Egypt is “far-fetched” but added that the ministry will issue a special warning to all citizens not to leave their houses in the unlikely case of its appearance.
Aboul Seoud has also indicated that the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs will be able to monitor this cloud by satellites if it appeared in the Egyptian sky and will find solutions to eliminate it by water.