文章 Articles

The world where I am: "A city up in smoke"

Crop fires in east China are clogging the air with smoke as farmers burn off the remains of the wheat harvest. Bo Ge sent us this report from the city of Xuzhou, in Jiangsu province.

Article image

XUZHOU June 13, 2007 – Today was an unusual day. When I woke up this morning my eyes were watering. My throat was dry and sore, and I smelt heavy smoke in the air. “They are doing it again,” I murmured. I drew the curtains and was shocked at what I saw: the city looked as if it were up in smoke. The whole city was enveloped in heavy shroud and the air had a strong smell of burning.

I live in Xuzhou, in east China’s Jiangsu province. This time each year the farmers burn wheat stubble in the fields. Today is the fifth day of burning and the most serious day so far. Out in the street, cars are moving slowly with their headlights on because the visibility is only about 10 metres. Some people are wearing masks and you can hear people complaining about it almost everywhere. Doctors were saying on the local news that they are receiving increased numbers of respiratory complaints, and suggested that residents keep their windows shut.

This photograph was taken inside a room in a house in Jiangsu province, and posted on a local internet bulletin board.

The smoke comes from the farmland around the city. In the evenings, the farmers begin to burn the stubble - the stalks of wheat that are left after the harvest -- and the fires last for several hours. But why have they been doing this for so many years? Mainly because it means the farmers don’t have to spend time and labour removing the stub from the fields, and the ashes as an organic fertiliser for the soil. The Chinese central government has issued a prohibition on stubble-burning, but unfortunately both the local government and the farmers have turned a blind eye to it. One farmer, in another city in Jiangsu Province, died after he tried to contain an uncontrolled fire in a field.

Xuzhou is not the only city afflicted by the smoke. China’s capital Beijing has been reported as covered in smoke from neighbouring provinces such as Hebei. Much of northern and central China, including the provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan, Hebei, Shangdong, Shanxi, are polluted with the same smoke. This smoke pollution problem has been a hot topic on some internet bulletin boards (BBS), with many netizens expressing their complaints, suggestions and disappointments. But my concern is simple: I just want to wake up tomorrow morning without watery eyes and a sore throat.


Tell us about the world where you are. What’s the environment like where you live? Send us your stories: [email protected]


Ge Bo lives in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province. He has worked as a middle-school English teacher and works in the Training Department of a European company.

Special thanks to Wang Hui, Philip, vik, evaporate, caiyonghong and满城春色, who contributed information for this report.

Homepage photo by J. Samuel. B. 

Now more than ever…

chinadialogue is at the heart of the battle for truth on climate change and its challenges at this critical time.

Our readers are valued by us and now, for the first time, we are asking for your support to help maintain the rigorous, honest reporting and analysis on climate change that you value in a 'post-truth' era.

Support chinadialogue

发表评论 Post a comment

评论通过管理员审核后翻译成中文或英文。 最大字符 1200。

Comments are translated into either Chinese or English after being moderated. Maximum characters 1200.

评论 comments

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous




This is truly astonishing. What can be done?

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous




I think it is quite important to improve the farmers' awareness of environment protection. If the local government can offer some better ways to deal with the wheat stubble. I believe farmers will be more than happy to accept it. vik

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



what is the government doing?

The thing behind this story is government's dereliction of duty! They can not even handle this simple case. How can they boast to "improve capability and efficiency of government"?

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



expected surprise

Is this true? YES...this does happen every year, but this year it has been getting worse.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



what a waste

lots energies stored in the leftover of the crop. government should spend money on how to covert the organic materials into clean energy. Save the erth and reduce polutant. We and the generations that follow deserve to breath easily.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


公民应齐心合力,协调此类活动,并防止它们再次发生. 因为政府是不可能解决所有问题的. 因此公民要对自己的行为负更大的责任.

citizen action, not government

Citizens should get together to coordinate responses to such activities and to help prevent them from reoccuring. The government has shown again and again that it is not capable of solving all problems by itself. Consequently citizens need to take on greater responsibility for their actions and those of others.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



it's over now!thanks god!

hi,Ge!im your hometown fellow.yes,i completely agree what you have said.it is a shame of all our xuzhou citizens.Although the officer from our local government said that they would be responsible for it,we havent got any response.Those who pay close attention to the environment,should stand in a line and against the disgusting deed!

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


我建议政府做更多去制止污染。 引进先进技术, 或者采取更多的措施防止污染再发生。

Really astonishing!

I suggest that the government do something to stop the pollution,introducing some advanced machines or taking some measures to prevent it happening again

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



That’s all what happen

I live in Xuzhou in east China's Jinagsu Province.

Farmers there usually burn wheat stubble this time every year. Today is the 5th stubble burning day, also the worse in terms of smoke pollution.

Due to the poor visibility of only 10 meters, cars have to move slowly by using headlights.

Pedestrians wear face-masks, some are complaining about the smog.

The Xuzhou News cited doctors as saying that the number of patients with respiratory disease is increasing. Doctors have also suggested the public to close their windows at home.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



Calling nongovernmental groups together

Nowadays I reckon what common people can do is to unite sending out a common message demanding strenghtened penalizing branches related to that kind of conditions.
(This comment was translated by Katarzyna Wachowska.)