Why we should not burn dry leaves

Why we should not burn dry leaves

November arrives, and we see dry leaves falling from the trees. They are just everywhere. Streets, footpaths, gardens, society premises, backyards. Our city literally gets drowned in dry leaves.

We simply don’t know what to do with all these dry leaves.

What do we do?

There is fire, there is acrid smoke all around us. We see dry leaves being collected and set on fire.

They are dry, right? Means they contain very less moisture. They burn off easily.

A large heap of dry leaves gets reduced to small quantity of ash, within no time.

All gone, problem solved!!

Then what is the challenge?

Let’s see.

First, when leaves are burnt, there is fire. It is open fire. Means smoke is inhaled by people around. Smoke is carried by winds and reaches even people quite far from the place.

Burning of dry leaves generates a large quantity of particulates. These particulates are carried by the wind. They can reach deep in lung tissue of people around and can cause

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Long-term respiratory problems

For the people who suffer from asthma or other breathing disorder, leaf burning is extremely hazardous.

Life on earth is carbon-based. We all, i.e. all the living things are made up of carbon. So, when any organic matter is burnt, that carbon combined with oxygen is let out in form of carbon dioxide.

If the leaves in the heap smother, i.e. they do not get enough oxygen, then Carbon monoxide is released.

Carbon monoxide is dangerously hazardous gas. It gets absorbed in blood where it reduces oxygen-carrying capacity of the Red Blood Cells (RBCs).

It also is one of the greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming. Its impact towards global warming is more than other common greenhouse gases, like Carbon dioxide and Methane.

Fire can always spread with wind. So, there is a risk of fire spreading to surrounding areas. It is risky for people and properties around.

Green trees, plants nearby get damaged due to fire.

So, burning leaves is health as well as fire hazard.

BUT THAT IS NOT ALL.

Tree absorbs various nutrients from the soil. Some percentage of those nutrients are present in these dry leaves. When leaves are burnt, we lose those nutrients. The nutrients that would have nourished the soil, get destroyed.

In all, burning off dry leaves is entirely lose-lose situation. We lose our clean air and beneficial nutrients for our soils.

Okkay, this all is all fine. But what to do with all these leaves?

Yes, people will ask this question.

And it is only fair. Telling people not to burn dry leaves is not enough. We need to provide alterative.

So, what are the alternatives?

  • Mulch
  • Compost
  • Donate

We will talk about each option in detail in next few blogs.

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