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Threat will not stop stalk fires

Updated: 2015-10-29 07:48
(China Daily)

Threat will not stop stalk fires

A man walks in the haze in Weihai city, Shandong province, Oct 16. [Photo/IC]

It seems some local governments have racked their brains trying to stop villagers from burning crop stalks, an issue that is believed to have contributed to smog in various regions.

To prevent villagers from doing this, a grassroots government in Central China's Henan province has even posted warnings that "burning crop stalks in the morning will lead to one's detention in the afternoon".

Putting aside whether or not such a punishment is legitimate, such stern warnings may deter villagers from burning crop residue in an open manner, but will likely prompt them to do it in a covert manner if no comprehensive and effective alternative is proposed.

As early as 1999, a ban was promulgated on the burning of crop stalks nationwide, which stipulated a fine for violators. However, burning them is still the most common way for villagers to deal with crop stalks, given that setting fire to these flammable materials is easily done. Monitoring by the Ministry of Environmental Protection indicates that the suspected burning of crop stalks was detected in more than 800 spots in 20 provinces in the first two weeks of October.

The reason why villagers still choose the most convenient method for crop stalks disposal is because no more economical and effective alternative is available. Some power plants that use crop stalks as fuel have been set up in some regions, but more than 70 percent of them run at a loss. This, together with the popularity of low-price electricity and natural gas which encourages villagers to abandon the use of crop stalks as fuel for cooking, has made crop residue an increasingly outstanding issue.

Without facing up to the crux of the problem, no punishment such as that proposed in Henan will solve the problem once and for all. Aside from efforts to raise villagers' environmental awareness, local governments should also increase their funding and technological inputs into the disposal of crop stalks so it can be done in a more environmentally friendly manner.

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