Egypt takes prize in smog ahead of under-20 World Cup


Every year, a black cloud descends on Cairo and hangs in the air for two months. This year, its arrival coincides with the three-week FIFA under-20 World Cup.

According to GlobalPost, Cairo’s smog is a toxic cocktail of vehicle emissions, urban factory pollutants and smoke from burned rice in the surrounding farms. The result – a suspended black cloud over the city – is a remarkable sign of the poor air quality. But even more remarkable is that the reporters struggled to find locals who thought Egypt’s pollution was more than rumors. Neither the teen football sensation Mohammad Talaat, nor the government’s air quality inspector Ahmad Abou Elseoud, and definitely not local vendors – believed the black cloud is a health or environmental hazard.

“Officials are hoping Cairo will take its fans breaths away. But that’s the problem, it very well might,” report Jon Jensen and Theodore May.

They cite World Bank figures that give Cairo, whose metropolitan population is 18 million, the title of worst city on the planet for suspended particulates. There was one interviewee who admitted the Bank is right, environment professor Salah El Haggar at the American University in Cairo:

“This is a disaster. Air pollution will affect the respiratory system, will affect the lungs, will affect the eyes, will affect cancer, will affect kidney failure, and will contribute to Hepatitis A, B and C.”

It’s not the first year the Egyptian capital has felt the throat-burning air pollution of the black cloud. As early as 2004, the English-language Al-Ahram paper cited government efforts to clean it up. And while Cairo has begun switching some vehicles to natural gas to cut down on hydrocarbons in the air, Jensen and May say it’s not enough to mitigate air so bad that when they tried to get an overhead shot of the city, the two had to give up because they couldn’t make out any buildings in the smog.

Check out this link for the video and for some interesting commentary from the reporters.

(Photo from Engineers Without Borders – Egypt)

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