Tobacco has become the popular plant in the districts of Hoa An, Ha Quang and Trung Khanh in Cao Bang district for the last tens of years. Local residents grow tobacco because the job allows them earning more money than other jobs. However, they understand well that they are the victims of tobacco plants.
Tobacco contains many toxic substances which can harm people during the cultivation, harvesting and processing. Van, a tobacco grower in Binh Long commune, said she got tobacco-sick one day when she went picking up tobacco leaves early in the morning and the dew left on the leaves dropped into her months.
“I vomited uncontrollably the whole day and I could not eat anything. I had to stay at home for the next whole week,” she recalled.
Tobacco has not only harmed people, but also indirectly led to the forest devastation. In the harvesting season, people rush to chop down trees to get firewood to dry tobacco. This explains why the forests are devastated most seriously when the harvesting begins.
People can dry tobacco leaves with firewood or coal. However, they prefer using firewood to coal. It is estimated that about 4-5 tons of coal is needed for every season, therefore, they would rather use firewood for which they do not have to pay money or pay lower than for coal.
Tobacco dryers exist in every house in the localities. Therefore, one would see big piles of firewood when entering the houses. It takes one block of wood to burn one kiln each time.
There is no official statistics about the volume of firewood people use to dry tobacco each year. However, this is certainly a big volume if noting that the nearby forests have been devastated, and people have to go further to other localities to buy firewood.
It’s not difficult to order firewood. They just need to call merchants and order truck drivers, and they would have firewood to be delivered at their homes.
A truck driver, who asked to be anonymous, said the firewood was mainly taken from the forests in Thach An and Hoa An districts, and sometimes from the forest in the neighboring Bac Kan province.
The so called “firewood” is, in fact, the big trees with the tree-trunk as big as the column of the house. He said local residents would refuse small trees, because they burn rapidly and cannot provide the high required temperature.
“We can carry 10 cubic meters each time,” he said.
Ignoring the warnings about the risks to people’s heath and about the damages to the living environment, local residents still have been expanding the tobacco growing areas. It’s easy to grow tobacco, while it is drought resistant and brings high economic efficiency.
Thom, who lives in Duc Long Commune, said among the plants grown here, tobacco can bring the highest profit. Thom and her family members earn 60-90 million dong every crop. Therefore, they still keep growing tobacco, even though they can anticipate the risks.
There, in Cao Bang, like in many other localities of the country, always exists a conflict between the economic development and the environment protection. The uncontrolled industrial and agricultural production may leads to the serious environment devastation. People would bear the consequences in the future for the things they do today.
Local authorities understand that it’s necessary to replace tobacco with other plants. However, they still have not found any kinds of plants, suitable to the waterless land. Thien Nhien