Campaign aims to stop burning of leaves

Campaign aims to stop burning of leaves

Winter has begun, and so has the falling of dry leaves from trees, littering streets and yards.

Disposing of dry leaves can be a problem, especially for people with large yards, and if piled in a corner, they could serve as a hiding place for snakes, so many people end up burning dry leaves.

It has become a common scene across the country to see smoke rising from yards or open spaces as people burn them. Everybody has become so used to it that they forget about the health hazard of inhaling the smoke.

Bokashi Myanmar’s “Don’t Burn” public campaign aims to remind people about the health hazards of open burning.

The group, which manufactures compost through a special process called Bokashi, warned that smoke from burning dry leaves can cause respiratory illness.

“In Yangon, dry leaves are heaped in streets or in front of houses because city garbage trucks do not pick up gardening trash,” said Ko Aung Soe of Bokashi Myanmar, who is organising the campaign.

“People don’t know how what to do, so the easiest way is to burn them,” he added.

Compounding the problem is the fact that plastics are often mixed in with the dry leaves, which releases deadly toxins in the air.

U Kyaw Nyein Aye, a visiting professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering of Yangon Technological University, said smoke from burning leaves mixed with plastics irritates the eyes, nose and throat.

“Depending on the distance and frequency of inhaling the smoke, serious respiratory diseases may develop later,” he warned.

Ko Aung Soe said that every winter the air quality in Yangon declines because of the burning of dry leaves. “Almost every street does this. Burning dry leaves contributes to air pollution,” he said.

U Kyaw Nyein Aye said that waste should only be burned in incinerators.

“In the past, people burned all kinds of waste, but now we don’t need to,” he said.

Bokashi Myanmar is collecting dry leaves in Yangon to help eliminate the burning habit.

The campaign against burning is focused on Shwe Taung Tan ward in downtown Yangon, which has many trees and dry leaves. Some embassies have joined in the project.

“We collect around 30 bags a week anywhere in Yangon. We collect the leaves on a fixed route once a week or every two weeks. We don’t charge money. We collect as far as North Dagon township,” Ko Aung Soe said. “If people want to donate, that’s fine.”

He said the leaves they collect would be converted into compost. The enterprise is willing to share its process with residents who want to make compost themselves.

“If they need bags to collect dry leaves, we give them rice bags,” Ko Aung Soe said.

“We can demonstrate the process to people at our office. It only requires a small space,” he said.

He said the easiest way to turn dried leaves into compost is to pile them under trees or between planting frames. Doing this prevents weeds from growing and retains the properties of the soil. For faster decomposition, the dried leaves can be watered and mixed with soil, according Bokashi Myanmar. Mixing them with soil increases the beneficial organisms, he added.

Anyone interested in giving away dried leaves, or in making compost can contact Bokashi Myanmar via social media or at 09799231325.

The group now operates in Yangon, but hopes to expand its campaign across the country to raise public awareness about the dangers of burning dry leaves and to offer an alternative.

“We want to put what comes out of earth back into the earth,” said Ko Aung Soe.

From: Myanmar Times