Vietnam farmers blame street lights for crop failure, demand compensation

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Farmers in the southern province of Long An are asking the management board of a highway to pay compensation for preventing their rice from blossoming with high-voltage street lights.


Initial studies show that nearly 100 hectares of nang thom cho dao rice, a variety with high economic value, planted along the Ho Chi Minh City Trung Luong Highway have been affected, Truong Van Trieu, vice chairman of the Ben Luc District People's Committee, said at a meeting with the highway's management board Monday.


Farmers were expecting to harvest four tons of rice per hectare at least from this crop, which meant they would incur losses of some VND30 million ($1,538) per hectare, according to the district's Division of Agriculture and Rural Development.


Ben Luc District authorities have asked the management board to pay compensation before Tet (Vietnam's Lunar New Year, which falls early February).


The meeting was held after several scientists informed the media that the rice couldn't blossom a month earlier as expected because they were exposed to high-voltage lights along the street.


Le Van Banh, chief of Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute, said the rice species blossoms in the months of October and November on the Lunar Calendar when days are shorter and nights are longer.


Being "exposed to the light overnight, the rice "˜felt' that it was day time, so it didn't blossom," he said, adding, "everybody knows this."


Agreeing with Banh, Ho Van Chien, director of the Plant Protection Department's branch in the south, said that in the same field some of the rice plants that weren't affected by the lights still blossomed.


Prof. Vo Tong Xuan, a rice expert, said that there's a good chance that high-voltage lights stop rice from blossoming, considering recent media reports about similar cases in other localities.


However, further studies are needed before coming to conclusion, he aid.


Meanwhile, the highway management board said at the meeting that while they recorded all the opinions of local farmers and agencies, they will not  pay any compensation.


The effect of street lights on rice was out of their expertise, so they would report it to the Ministry of Transport for further action, they said.


Responding to the board's stance, farmer Le Van Muoi said: "If the board doesn't compensate us, we will file lawsuits."


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