Cambodia bans rice straw, garbage burning to reduce air pollution

PHNOM PENH (XINHUA) – Cambodia issued a directive to ban people living in rural areas from burning paddy straw and garbage in their fields to reduce air pollution, the Khmer Times reported yesterday.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said according to a survey, the main sources and activities that cause an increase of the concentration of inert particles are emissions from industrial plants, vehicles using diesel and other fuels, forest fires, burning of grass fields, burning agricultural waste, forest clearing, burning of rice straw, burning of solid waste in the open and landfills, and dust from construction sites.

He said during the dry season from December to April, the results of the previous air quality monitoring survey conducted in capital Phnom Penh and the provinces indicated that the air quality had deteriorated alarmingly, especially with the increase in the concentration of inert particles floating in the air (PMID and PM2.5) above the set standard, which could be high risk and impact people’s health.

Pheaktra said to prevent air pollution in the country, the ministry is taking action with five measures, including preventing wildfires, improving road infrastructure, removing dust on roads and roadsides, educating people not to burn garbage, solid waste, grass, rice straw or other agricultural waste, and preparing preventive measures for forest fires.

“We expect people and the authorities to participate by reducing the amount of waste they burn in rural areas or on plantations and land concessions because all this burning builds up air pollution, even the smallest particle circulates in the atmosphere and can seriously affect breathing,” the newspaper quoted Pheaktra as saying.

“We also ask people not to burn their straw anymore, but to plough and bury this waste,” he said. “Please do not burn straw, it can be buried in a compost pit to turn into fertiliser.”

Tep Bunthoeun, a resident living in Kampong Speu province’s Phnom Sruoch district, said after harvesting rice he always used to burn the straw, but now he stopped because he understands how the smoke affects air quality and deteriorates farmland.

Sdeung Chany, a resident living in Kampong Speu province’s Kong Pisey district, said every morning she cleaned her house and burned some plastic garbage because she thought that burning a little amount of waste was not bad for the environment.

“When I saw the Ministry of Environment’s directive, I regretted my actions and now I think that burning rice straw, forest fires and burning plastic waste causes air pollution,” Chany said.