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Helicopters trace straw-burning farmers

2014-10-30 08:54 Shanghai Daily Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

Police helicopters are being used to spot farmers illegally burning straw, as part of efforts to reduce pollution in the city.

Officers photograph incidents and inform the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, which sends staff to the scene.

Since helicopter patrols began last weekend, more than 30 instances of straw burning have been discovered, said Wu Jinsong, deputy director of the bureau's water and ecology protection department.

Wu said it had previously been difficult for law enforcement teams to spot straw burning, but that helicopters can easily see tell-tale plumes of smoke.

Patrols cover city rice-growing areas of Chongming Island, Jinshan and Songjiang districts and the Pudong New Area.

Some 10 percent of Shanghai's pollution is said to be caused by straw burning, contributing to the winter haze.

Traditionally, farmers burn rice straw after harvest, using the ash to fertilize their fields.

Despite the government agreeing to buy the straw and offering subsidies for recycling, many farmers still favor the practice as it saves them cash.

But this month, as part of what city officials described as "China's strictest air protection law," the practice was completely banned in Shanghai.

Previously, straw burning was prohibited near airports, main roads, densely populated areas and other designated areas.

Farmers can be fined 200 yuan (US$33) for burning straw. However, anyone burning material on bonfires — also covered by the legislation — faces a fine of up to 20,000 yuan.

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