Subscribe Us

Ilonggo Network

Stop sugarcane trash burning

The other day, I saw a photo posted in the Facebook by Gerry Ledesma, one of the prime movers in the conservation movement not only in Negros, but also in the entire Philippines, showing the burning of a newly harvested sugarcane field.

The caption that goes with the photo states, “The Negros sugar industry: the island's main livelihood and a major contributor to climate change. Sugar leaders and politicians must obligate the planters to stop trash burning it’s also a violation of the Clean Air Act.” Is the Environment Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources ready to respond to this?

In my comment to the post, I asked Ledesma, a sugarcane planter himself, if it is feasible to ask the different sugarcane planters’ associations to tell their members to stop this burning of sugarcane trashes every after harvesting, of which he replied, that he attempted but to no avail.  He instead urged to impose the provision of the Clean Air Act, which actually prohibits the open burning of agricultural refuse, like sugarcane trashes.

One need not be an expert to see the effect of this practice of burning sugarcane trashes, because it obviously results to the emission of carbon in the atmosphere. While I did not hear any study pointing to the volume of carbon emission from the burning of sugarcane trashes in Negros, the result is still pollution. Little or negligible as it may, it still contributes to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially so that vast areas in Negros are concentrated for sugarcane plantations, and how may planters are still doing this open burning?

Because this burning creates pollution, it is similarly harmful and hazardous to the health of communities surrounding the sugarcane fields, not to mention the inconveniences it created with all the ashes it produce of that spread out when blown by the wind. Much more, this irresponsible practice kills the soil nutrients in the area, the reason why planters have to increase the use of synthetic fertilizers, which further results to additional health and environmental issues.

The study of the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. pointed out that the burning of sugarcane trashes is likewise harmful to the endemic and threatened Visayan leopard cats that sometimes take refuge in the sugarcane fields, especially if these sites are adjacent to moderately hilly or mountainous portions. In addition, there might be some agriculture-friendly organisms that are being wiped out when the sugarcane trashes are flamed.

The trashes from sugarcane are actually beneficial once they are plowed back in the fields because they become natural composting materials, and therefore they enrich the fertility of the soil. If there is impracticality to this approach, the sugarcane trashes can also be hauled to composting facilities for appropriate and proper handling, or transported to biofuel producing industries. This means additional income for the planters. In solid waste management, there is a rule that says, “Turn trash to cash.” Biofuel is one potential source of clean energy.

While it is true that poor communities in the uplands have contributed in the depletion of our natural resources, it is also true that those in the middle and upper classes of the society contribute to environmental degradation, just like these sugarcane planters who are still practicing the burning of sugarcane trashes and continue to ignore the Clean Air Act.

It is high time for the EMB to act on this concern. Dialogs with the associations of the various sugarcane planters maybe initiated by the EMB, and after which, impose the provisions of the Clean Air Act. This open burning is very visible and so easy to gather evidences to warrant both administrative and criminal actions. In the same manner, local officials are in the position to act on this matter, because such practice is detrimental to the health and well being of their constituents.*

Post a Comment