smokefree village

February 22nd, 2009

No, they didn’t ban smoking. Instead, one village in Yanqing County has replaced it’s old wood, straw and coal stoves for cooking and heating with fancy new ones. It’s perhaps a little puffy, the article, despite the lack of smoke, but it reports that Mijiabu Village in Yanqing Township (the area in roughly the centre of the county, centred on the county town) has retired it’s dirty, smoky old stoves with “环保节能的生物质炊事炉。”- Environmentally friendly energy saving biomass cooking stoves. The article doesn’t enlighten me as to just how these new stoves produce heat from biomass without producing smoke, but maybe I’m missing something. But it does quote one villager happily saying that the new stoves are much faster, boiling a pot of water in only 10 minutes, and they’re environmentally friendly and hygienic.

Hygienic? Well, my mother in law still uses an old, cornstalk-fired stove for cooking, and cooking a meal can easily smoke out the kitchen and entrance hall. Usually when she’s cooking I have to seek refuge from the smoke in a room with the door tightly closed. And of course, there’s the coal stove used for heating, and we all know coal isn’t the cleanest-burning of fuels. So yes, hygienic. Replacing those old stoves is not just good for the environment, but good for public health, too.

It also lists a series of new energy projects the township is implementing:

…大型沼气、秸秆压块、吊炕、太阳能浴池、墙体保温…

…large-scale methane, straw briquettes, suspended kangs, solar-powered bath houses, wall insulation…

Actually, that reminds me, we saw a new solar-powered bath house up in our township over Spring Festival. It’s a single-storey concrete building divided into men’s and women’s halves with a huge rack of solar water heaters on the roof. An aunt caught a chill bathing there. It seems to run on a first in first served basis, so if the hot water starts to run out while you’re still bathing, you’d best get out quick.

I still don’t know what a suspended kang is, but they were mentioned in an article I translated last April.

But this smokefree village article does end with an interesting perspective:

从烧柴、烧煤到用上新能源,米家堡村今年60多岁的赵德海深有感触,几十年来,他亲眼目睹了农村炊事的三大变迁。过去,由于农村没有别的能源,主要依靠木 柴生火,大量树木遭到砍伐,许多青山变成了秃山,绿坡变成了荒地,烧柴产生的大量烟雾,使原来清新的空气受到了污染。渐渐的,人们不再砍树取柴,用上了节 煤炉,烟煤、蜂窝煤取而代之,虽然省事了,但依旧是煮饭满屋烟,熏黑四面墙,灰尘扫不完。如今,村民免费用上了秸秆“绿气”,方便快捷,乌烟瘴气的景象一 去不复返了。

From burning wood and coal to using new energy, 60-something Mijiabu villager Zhao Dehai is deeply moved. Over the decades, he has seen with his own eyes three great changes in rural cooking. In the past, because the countryside had no other energy resource, the mainly relied on burning wood. Many trees were cut down, and many green moountains became barren mountains, green slopes became wastelands. Burning wood produced a lot of smoke, polluting the originally pure air. Gradually people stopped felling trees for firewood and started using coal stoves, replacing wood with soft coal and coal briquettes. Although it was less trouble, cooking still filled the room with smoke, blackening the walls, and there was endless ash to sweep. Today villagers use free straw “green gas”, which is convenient and fast, and the foul sight has gone never to return.

Yeah, first time I went to Yanqing I was surprised by the obvious lack of natural old-growth forests on the mountainsides. Almost all the trees were young and short and obviously planted in an effort at reforesting the slopes. Guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, I mean, any forest within easy reach of a village is obviously a target for those in need of firewood.

Anyway, hopefully our township learns about these new stoves and starts installing them. Cooking over cornstalks is hard, dirty work.

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