Monday, August 19, 2019

To end smog, give farmers better options than burning

Mar 14. 2019
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Re: “Mae Hong Son flights cancelled due to fire-caused reduced visibility”, National, March 13.

In the face of a worsening smog crisis, Bangkok Airways has cancelled flights to and from Mae Hong Son province since Monday.

Mae Hong Son’s smog problem stems partly from forest fires, but also from agriculture fires which are lit to clear land for cultivation.

The smog is not only a danger to planes (visibility) but also to people’s health, economic activities and the environment. 

Although the country is facing a severe smog crisis, there appears to be no reduction in traditional burning of rice stubble, corncobs, sugarcane leaves and weeds in farmland. 

Evidence shows, however, that farmers who do not set fire to fields achieve higher yields on average. 

So why do it?

The answer usually given is labour shortage, savings in time and money, and convenience.

These factors are so powerful that they override bans on agricultural burning, such as the one currently in place in Mae Hong Son.  

Many agencies promote and offer guidance on burning-free farming, including information on ploughing and organic agriculture.

Yet it seems that this support has not yet reached farmers. As a result, farmers feel they do not have solutions available that are better than the ones at hand: a petrol can and a box of matches.

If farmers were given superior options to burning, the smog would disappear.   

Sutipunt Bongsunun

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