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To Combat ‘Black Cloud’ Pollution, Egypt Comes Up With A New Plan

The World Health Organization is holding its first global air pollution conference in Geneva this week.

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Egypt, pollution, seeds
Air pollution can hamper work productivity. VOA

An Egyptian government program to pay traders to buy rice straw from farmers at the end of harvest has helped to combat one of Cairo’s ugliest features — a huge black cloud that hangs over the Egypt capital during the burning season.

Cairo is the world’s second most polluted megacity, the World Health Organization says, and the government is pursuing several initiatives to cut back greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the biggest contributors to the thick layer of smog has been the annual burning of rice straw by farmers who have no other means to dispose of it.

Pollution, Delhi, egypt
As pollution levels spike, Delhi and its satellite towns are enveloped in a haze of smog. VOA

To tackle the problem, the government offered an incentive to traders to buy the straw from farmers amounting to 50 Egyptian pounds ($3) per ton, said Mohamed Salah, head of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA). They can then sell it as animal feed or for other uses.

The program appears to be bearing results.

“Today, the dark cloud season is over and all citizens in Egypt are saying that they have not sensed any significant problem relating to this, unlike what had happened in previous years,” Salah said.

egypt
To tackle the problem, the government offered an incentive to traders to buy the straw from farmers amounting to 50 Egyptian pounds.

An industrial boom in Egypt has also contributed to pollution, Salah said.’

“We have some small industries that are deregulated and are not in line with environmental standards. We have worked hard on these,” he said.

Also Read: Dushhera In Delhi Casts A Dark Blanket, Air Quality Worsens

The World Health Organization is holding its first global air pollution conference in Geneva this week. (VOA)

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U.N. Urges Egypt To Halt All Executions Based On Confessions Obtained Against Torture

“There is significant cause for concern that due process and fair trial guarantees may not have been followed in some or all of these cases, and that the very serious allegations concerning the use of torture were not properly investigated,” Colville said.

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Family members of those convicted and executed for the killing of public prosecutor Hisham Barakat gather at Zynhom morgue in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 20, 2019, as they wait for their bodies to be released. VOA

The U.N. Human Rights Office is urging Egypt to halt all executions and to conduct investigations into all allegations that people are subjected to the death penalty based on confessions obtained under torture.

Egypt has executed 15 people in February and the U.N. Human Rights Office notes the month is not yet over. The agency reports nine people were executed this week in a case related to the killing of Egypt’s General Prosecutor, Hisham Barakat.

Regarding six other killings earlier this month, it says three men were convicted of assassinating a police officer and three others in connection with the murder of the son of a judge.

Human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville said in all cases the defendants have told the court they were subjected to torture to make them confess to the crimes of which they were accused.

FILE - A defendant is seen caged in a courtroom in Torah prison, southern Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 22, 2015.
A defendant is seen caged in a courtroom in Torah prison, southern Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 22, 2015. VOA

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In June 2017, the U.N. Committee against Torture completed a four-year confidential inquiry and concluded that torture is “practiced systematically” in Egypt. Colville told VOA the recent allegations of torture, in almost all of these cases, come against this well-established backdrop that torture is endemic in Egypt.

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“If torture was used to make a confession a considerable part of the prosecution’s case, then that should not be admitted in court. That confession produced under torture should not be admissible. And when these allegations have been brought up by the defense lawyers and so on, our belief is they are not being taken seriously enough by the courts,” he said.

Colville said a number of individuals convicted under similar circumstances in Egypt have exhausted all legal proceedings. He says they currently are on death row at imminent risk of execution. (VOA)