Heilongjiang officials refute Russian claims of straw burning

By Chen Heying Source:Global Times Published: 2016/10/27 0:38:39

Agricultural authorities in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province on Wednesday denied Russian reports that smog in the border areas was caused by straw burning in Heilongjiang.

Khabarovsk and some other border areas were blanketed by heavy smog on Tuesday and a few days earlier, Russia's Sputnik News Agency reported.

The authorities in Khabarovsk Territory planned to write to the Heilongjiang provincial government about the need to control air pollution and straw burning after its natural resources department sent a letter to the Department of Environmental Protection in Heilongjiang two weeks ago.

An employee surnamed Wu at the publicity office of the agricultural department told the Global Times on Wednesday that he had heard of the letter, but the responsibility to supervise straw burning has been transferred to the agricultural committee of the province.

"Farmers in the province have not started to harvest crops this year, let alone burn straw," Xiu Guohui, a liaison staff of the committee responsible for collecting related information from local governments, told the Global Times.

Xiu said that recent rains and snow also prevented the burning, predicting that the famers would not burn straw until early November.

He added that several inspection teams have been dispatched to rural areas, especially border villages, to carry out comprehensive supervision.

Between October 16 and 23, the number of straw-burning sites in Heilongjiang decreased to 33 at present from 277 a year ago, according to statistics released by the Satellite Environment Center under China's Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP).

The provincial government issued an action plan to forbid straw burning on October 8, asking 10 departments, including agriculture, environmental protection, police, forestry and transportation, to jointly prevent straw burning in villages, on the roads and around airports, according to a notice released on its official website.

The northeastern Chinese provinces - Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning - were hit by severe smog in early November 2015. The smog had engulfed a total of 260,000 square kilometers of area at the time, Luo Yi, director-general of the Department of Environmental Monitoring under the MEP, was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as saying.

The density of PM2.5, airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, reached extremely high levels across the region, slashing visibility, grounding flights and closing highways. Experts attributed the acrid smog in Northeast China to several causes, including winter heating and burning straw.

The month of October has already witnessed heavy smog in northern China several times.

The Beijing Emergency Management raised the pollution alert level from blue to yellow, the third-highest warning level, on October 14 because the density of PM 2.5 particles reached 350 micrograms per cubic meter.

Since Monday, light to moderate air pollution has affected Tianjin Municipality and some cities in North China's Hebei Province, including Baoding and Tangshan, according to China National Environmental Monitoring Center.

Yellow alerts for air pollution have been issued in all these regions.

Moderate to heavy air pollution is forecast for central and southern parts of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region from Tuesday to Wednesday. Cold air is expected to disperse the smog on Thursday, Xinhua reported.
Newspaper headline: Smog not caused by farm fire

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