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Post harvest straw smoke continues to harm people

 VietNamNet Bridge – Smoke from burning stacks of straw and waste in fields on the outskirts of Ha Noi occurs annually, causing risks to people's health and traffic safety after every rice harvest.

VietNamNet Bridge – Smoke from burning stacks of straw and waste in fields on the outskirts of Ha Noi occurs annually, causing risks to people's health and traffic safety after every rice harvest.



A man burns straw after a rice harvest in Dong Anh District on the outskirt of Ha Noi. 


In the meantime, new technology to convert straw into organic fertilizer, instead of burning it, has not been made available to farmers.

Nguyen Thi Thanh, a farmer in Hoai Duc District's Phuong Quan Commune, said she, as well as other villagers, burned straw after rice harvests, as there was no storage for straw and few households keep straw as feed for buffaloes and cows.

"I burn it to make fertiliser for the next crops," she said.

Nguyen Quang Vinh, a farmer in Quynh Do Village in Thanh Tri District's Vinh Quynh Commune, said that he had burnt straw on his six-sao (2,160 square-metres) field. Ash would be kept on the barren ground until it has turned into fertiliser. The process takes about three months.

"This is the only way I and other villagers dispose of straw," Vinh said, "Every household burns their straw. We've done so for tens of years".

"Smoke is really annoying and harmful. We know it very well. We just don't know what to do with such large amount of straw", he said.

Hoang Duong Tung, deputy director of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Vietnam Environment Administration, said that farmers were not fully aware of the harm from burning straw.

"Straw burning will cause dust pollution. It is a very harmful type of pollution, as dust enters the lungs and causes respiratory diseases, even cancer. In this case, wearing masks doesn't help", he said.

Also, agricultural experts have warned that burning straw on fields would kill needed insects and cause ecological imbalances on the land.

To solve the problem, many agricultural experts have studied methods of converting straw into organic fertiliser using a probiotics method. The Institute of Biotechnology under Viet Nam Academic Institute of Science and Technology has successfully studied methods of treating straw. As estimated, a farmer could save up to VND500,000 (US$23.2) in purchasing NPK fertiliser by creating one tonne of organic fertiliser from straw.

The technology has been transferred to Ha Noi and the northern provinces of Hoa Binh, Bac Giang, Bac Ninh, Thai Binh and Nam Dinh. However, the use of the new methods was not well accepted.

Vinh, the farmer in Quynh Do, said he had never heard about the technology.

Vinh said he only knew about the method of using straw for planting mushrooms. However, it could not easily be carried out in his village since mushroom planting requires large areas. Tung, deputy director of the environment administration, said the ministry had required local authorities to encourage farmers to minimise the burning of straw.

He suggested that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development work with the Ministry of Science and Technology to develop proper methods of treating straw and quickly help farmers put these methods in place.



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