Knowledge for Development

Sugar cane industry: environmental threats, prospects for bioeconomy


Date: 13/05/2014


Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) senior research fellow Francis Johnson talks to Engineering News about the contrasting management practices of the sugar cane industry in developing countries. Most countries with sugar cane farms face similar environmental problems: water shortage, nutrient run-off, biodiversity loss, chemical leach, air pollution, and so on.  Johnson argues that the ways countries draft and enforce legislation associated with the growing of sugar cane will decide upon the sustainability of the industry. In South Africa for example, the widespread practice of burning sugar cane prior to harvest causes air pollution and loss of biomass (cane trash) while post-harvest cane residues could otherwise be burned to generate electricity and heat. In the much smaller country Mauritius however, the adoption of modern cane farming practices and standards have helped mitigate negative environmental impacts of the industry.  Ideas for public-private partnerships to improve the industry abound and most are self-evident: grow sugar cane where the land naturally allows it, help the industry attain standards, enable reporting and enforcement, associate liability for environmental damage, develop and market by-products with added value, etc.  

(Engineering News via SIANI, 28/03/2014)

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