Waiting for the Smoke to Clear РGaoming Jiang (蒋高明)

 Userfiles Image Crop Fire2China’s fields are burning as farmers clear the crop stubble after the harvest. Local communities are choking, says Gaoming Jiang, as the country wastes a valuable resource for power generation, fertiliser and food. From China Dialogue:

In northern China it is now the middle of the autumn planting season, and once again the farmers are burning off the crop stubble left after the harvest. The highways that run through the fields are covered in smoke, which seeps in through closed windows and can reduce visibility to half a kilometre. It gets worse at night; crop fires are illegal, so the farmers wait till it gets dark to avoid getting caught. However, you were unlikely to see this a decade ago.

When Qufu held its International Confucius Culture Festival the local government cracked down on the stubble burning to avoid the embarrassment of smoke veiling the proceedings. The authorities threatened fines of 4,000 yuan (US$532) and 15 days detention for farmers caught flouting the ban. But even that failed to stop the practice. Local farmers ended up playing a 24-hour game of cat and mouse with the authorities, waiting until the police had ceased their patrols to start burning the crop stubble. [Full Text]

Gaoming Jiang is a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Botany. He is also vice secretary-general of the UNESCO China-MAB (Man and the Biosphere) Committee and a member of the UNESCO MAB Urban Group.

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